Iraq's Elite Forces Push Deeper North In Battle For Mosul's Old City

Iraq's Elite Forces Push Deeper North In Battle For Mosul's Old City

 Iraq's elite forces pushed north and west of Mosul's Old City on Monday (April 24), fighting street by street as they continued their assault on the Islamic State (ISIS).

The troops, also known as the Golden Division, fought fierce street battles in the Bab al-Baydh district. Thuds of explosions rumbled across the neighborhood only meters away from the famed al-Nuri Mosque, from where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a "caliphate" spanning parts of Iraq and Syria.

Iraqi forces have had the centuries-old leaning minaret of the mosque in their sights since last month, as capturing it would mark a symbolic victory over the insurgents. One police captain said they were close to taking the whole area, with just 10s of meters remaining to their goal.

They have already taken much of Mosul from the militants who overran the city in June 2014 and now control the eastern districts and are making advances in the west.

Their progress has been slow as about 400,000 civilians, or a quarter of Mosul's pre-war population, are trapped in the labyrinth of narrow streets in the Old City, according to the United Nations.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced in October 2016 the beginning of the offensive to regain Mosul, ISIS’ stronghold in Iraq which the militant group captured in June 2014.

Iraqi forces have liberated eastern Mosul, which was the country’s second largest city, and are battling to regain the western side.