Iraqi Forces Push Deeper Into Old City Of Mosul

Iraqi Forces Push Deeper Into Old City Of Mosul

 Thick smoke could been seen on Friday (April 21) billowing over the Old City of Mosul, near the Grand al-Nuri Mosque, as Iraqi forces advance under the U.S.-backed offensive to capture Islamic State's (ISIS) de facto capital.

The mosque is where Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had declared a "caliphate" spanning parts of Iraq and Syria.

Heavy exchanges of gunfire and mortar rounds could be heard in the area close to al-Farouq neighborhood where the mosque is situated.

The battle to free Mosul - between ISIS militants and Iraqi forces - is now in its seventh month and has taken a heavy toll on several hundred thousand civilians trapped in neighborhoods inside the city, still under control of the militants.

Iraqi forces are making progress in their offensive to expel ISIS from Mosul but face a complicated urban battle as the militants hide in mosques, homes and hospitals, sheltering among civilians in the city in order to evade airstrikes.

The war between ISIS and Iraqi forces is taking a heavy toll on several hundred thousand civilians trapped inside the city, with severely malnourished babies reaching hospitals in government-held areas.

The operation to regain full control of Mosul from ISIS militants began on October 17 last year.

Iraqi forces liberated the eastern side of Mosul in February and continue the operation to regain the western side.