Iraqi Forces Continue Advance On Isis Enclave In Mosul

Iraqi Forces Continue Advance On Isis Enclave In Mosul

 U.S.-backed Iraqi forces advanced into neighborhoods under the control of Islamic State (ISIS) in Mosul on Monday (May 15) as they sought to dislodge fighters entrenched in a central mosque before the holy month of Ramadan.

Seven months into the campaign to recapture Mosul, militants are besieged in its northwestern corner, home to the historic Old City center and the medieval Grand al-Nuri Mosque, where their black flag has been flying since June 2014.

Military commanders and intelligence officials say they aim to take control of the mosque before Ramadan starts on May 27, even if there are still pockets under militant control.

The mosque, where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a "caliphate" spanning swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014, has high symbolic and strategic value for ISIS, officials say. They hope its capture will deal a painful blow to fighter morale and bring an end to resistance in the city.

On Monday, Iraqi Federal Police Commander Shakir Jawdat said Rapid Response Forces and federal police had secured Hasuna village, a gas refinery and a residential area.

The Rapid Response Forces have also secured 50 percent of the neighborhoods of Iqtisadeen and Tamuz 17 in western Mosul, the commander added. Jawdat noted Iraqi forces seized a large bomb factory.

The campaign to capture Mosul started on October 17, with air and ground support from a U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition.

The offensive to take Mosul, the largest city under ISIS control in either Iraq or Syria, is turning into the biggest battle in Iraq's turbulent history since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.