A high-ranking Iraqi security commander says government forces have made territorial gains in the western part of Mosul as they battle to drive Daesh Takfiri militants out of their last bastion in the country’s second largest city.
Commander of Federal Police Forces Lieutenant General Shaker Jawdat said on Sunday that security personnel had advanced 100 meters in the militant-held Old City of Mosul, only hours after they began their assault to retake the rest of Mosul, Arabic-language Mawazin news agency reported.
Jawdat added that soldiers from the Federal Police have also regained control over the civil defense buildings in the area, and are targeting Daesh defense lines with missiles.
Taking back the Old City of Mosul, a densely populated warren of narrow alleyways on the western side of Mosul, is crucial to recapturing the whole of the former Daesh stronghold in Iraq.
The United Nations says around 150,000 civilians are trapped in the neighborhood along with hundreds of Daesh militants.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on June 16 that members of the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group are holding more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians as human shields in the Old City of western Mosul.
“More than 100,000 civilians may still be held in the Old City. We know that Daesh moved them with them as they left… locations where the fighting was going on. These civilians are basically held as human shields in the Old City,” the presiding UNHCR representative in Iraq, Bruno Geddo, told reporters in the Swiss city of Geneva.
He added that there is virtually no food, water, electricity and fuel in the area, and civilians are “living in increasingly worsening situation of penury and panic because they are surrounded by fighting on every side.”
Geddo further noted that Daesh snipers try to kill anyone trying to leave the militant-held Old City of Mosul, stressing that the small number of civilians who manage to escape are “deeply traumatized.”
Daesh executes four civilians southwest of Kirkuk
Meanwhile, the Takfiri Daesh militant group has reportedly executed four civilians in Iraq’s oil-rich northern province of Kirkuk on charges of espionage and collaboration with security forces.
A local source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Daesh terrorists killed the victims in the village of Um al-Oyoun near Hawijah, located 45 kilometers west of Kirkuk, on Sunday.
Iraqi army soldiers and volunteer fighters from the Popular Mobilization Units, commonly known by their Arabic name, Hashd al-Sha’abi, have made sweeping gains against the Takfiri elements since launching the Mosul operation on October 17, 2016.
The Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting, and launched the battle in the west on February 19.
An estimated 862,000 people have been displaced from Mosul ever since the battle to retake the city began nine months ago. A total of 195,000 civilians have also returned, mainly to the liberated areas of eastern Mosul.