Iraqi security forces moved deeper inside central Mosul on Sunday, recapturing two neighborhoods while killing and arresting several Islamic State militants.
A security source was quoted by Skypress saying the forces took full control of Khaled ibn al-Walid and Bab al-Sijn neighborhoods near central Mosul’s Old City, opening safe exit routes for civilians. The troops moved on to al-Matahen (mills) area, killing 17 militants, including two suicide bombers, according to the agency.
Also near the Old City, Borhan al-Abdali, a lieutenant at the army’s Counter-Terrorism Force, told Anadolu Agency his forces retook Fatah al-Ali, an alleyway in the nearby Mosul al-Jadida district, killing 14 militants after two hours of intense fighting. Abdali quoted civilians reporting of many militants throwing their weapons and escaping to nearby alleyways.
Iraqi Federal Police chief said Sunday his forces arrested a senior Islamic State leader in western Mosul, while Kurdish Peshmerga forces said they killed others.
Lt. Gen. Shaker Jawdat said police arrested Hossam Shiit al-Jubouri, the official in charge of the extremist group’s hisbah (vigilantism) office in western Mosul’s Bab al-Sijn district.
The IS body had acted as a disciplinary police force, arresting violators of the group’s extremist rule. Many of its offices reportedly closed upon the launch of Iraqi government operations to retake western Mosul mid February.
In the town of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, Kurdish Peshmerga forces also said they killed a senior Islamic State leader, identified as Taha Gawish, and an unidentified number of his aides, in an artillery shelling at Baki Quot village near the strategic town.
His forces were very close to the Grand Nuri Mosque in Old Mosul, another primary target for Iraqi security forces seeking to eradicate IS from western Mosul since February.
“Federal Police troops have become very close to liberating al-Hadbaa Minaret, the second most important strategic target in western Mosul after the liberated government buildings,” Jawdat said, using the Arabic common reference to the mosque’s “leaning” minaret.
The Nuri Mosque was the location where IS supreme leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi delivered his famous sermon in 2014 to declare the establishment of a self-styled “Islamic Caliphate” in Iraq, appointing himself as a Caliph “ruler” of the proclaimed state.
Jawdat added that his forces, advancing towards the mosque, killed tens of militants and destroyed 23 booby-trapped vehicles.
Iraqi government forces recaptured eastern Mosul from IS in January after three months of fighting.
Government forces, backed by a U.S.-led coalition have made remarkable achievements since February, retaking main government buildings, the city’s airport and a major military base. The troops have recently pushed deeper into the Old City, a densely-populated and -structured area which military officials view as central to the desired victory over IS militants.