Iraqi Forces Edge Closer To Mosul Mosque

Iraqi Forces Edge Closer To Mosul Mosque

Iraqi special forces and police fought Islamic State (ISIS) militants to edge closer to the al-Nuri mosque in western Mosul on Tuesday (May 2), tightening their control around the landmark site.

The close-quarters fighting is focused on the Old City surrounding the mosque, where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed a caliphate nearly three years ago across territory controlled by the group in both Iraq and Syria.

"We are now in the heart of the Old City in the right half of the city of Mosul,” Colonel Ibrahim Hwayel said. “Forces of the federal police are surrounding the Old City and are advancing cautiously to spare the lives of civilians and protect their properties and houses. Families are fleeing the oppression of Daesh [ISIS] and we are receiving them and evacuating them to safe areas."

Heavy sustained gunfire could be heard from the Old City area, where militants are hiding among residents and using the alleyways, traditional family homes and snaking narrow roads to their advantage, fleeing residents say.

Tens of thousands of Mosul residents are trapped inside homes, caught in the fighting, shelling and air strikes as Iraqi forces backed by a U.S.-led coalition advance in the west.

The United Nations believes up to half a million people remain in the area, 400,000 of whom are in the Old City with little food, water and medicine.

Meanwhile, a number of families who returned to their homes in Nabi Sheet neighborhood in west Mosul saying that the situation there is better than life in the refugee camps.