Iraq forces repel IS counter-attack in Mosul

Iraqi forces have repelled counter-attacks by so-called Islamic State (IS) as they push the group into a corner of Mosul’s Old City.

IS deployed suicide bombers in different parts of the northern city but the affected areas were brought under control, Iraqi officials say.

The Iraqi offensive to remove IS from the city is in its final phase.

The military has announced it has captured Faruq district on the north-western side of the Old City.

Iraqi TV said the national flag had been raised in the district, which is opposite the al-Nuri mosque and famed crooked minaret destroyed by IS.

The operation to retake Mosul, seized by IS in 2014, began last October.

The government announced the liberation of the eastern half in January 2017, but the west of the city, with its narrow streets, has proved more difficult.

Nevertheless, IS is now confined to 2.5 sq km (a square mile) of territory.

Iraqi forces were just 600 metres away from accomplishing their mission, police commander Lt General Raed Jawdat said.

At least two IS counter-attacks were reported on Sunday night. The Baghdad-based Kurdish Shafaq news agency reported three attacks by the group in western Mosul – in Tanak, Rajm Hadid and Yarmouk districts.

Residents’ houses were set on fire, the agency said.

Officials said IS fighters had hidden among civilians returning to their homes in -Tanak and Yarmuk. They said there had been casualties, including up to 20 jihadist fighters killed.

Tens of thousands of civilians are believed to remain trapped in the Old City.

As for the number of IS fighters still there, estimates from the Iraqi military and analysts suggest several hundred.

The increasing pressure on IS comes less than a week after the group blew up the al-Nuri mosque.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the destruction of the mosque, which was more than 800 years old, was “an official declaration of defeat” by IS.

The mosque was the scene of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s only public appearance, when he demanded allegiance to his “caliphate” in July 2014.

The offensive against IS in Mosul, the group’s biggest and last urban stronghold in Iraq, was launched on 17 October 2016.

Thousands of Iraqi security forces, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, Sunni Arab tribesmen and Shia militiamen, assisted by US-led coalition warplanes and military advisers, have been deployed.

 

Zainab Sa’id