Iraqi forces have retaken around 30% of west Mosul from Islamic State (IS) militants, a commander of the elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) said on Sunday, as soldiers pushed into more districts.
Federal police and Rapid Response units said they had entered the Bab al-Tob area of the Old City, where the fight is expected to be toughest due to narrow alleyways through which armoured vehicles cannot pass. The militants are vastly outnumbered and outgunned by Iraqi forces backed by a U.S.-led coalition and are defending their last major stronghold in Iraq using suicide car bombs, snipers and mortars.
As many as 6,00,000 civilians are trapped with the militants inside the city which Iraqi forces have effectively sealed off from the rest of the territory that IS controls in Syria and Iraq.
17 districts retaken
CTS troops stormed the al-Jadida and al-Aghawat districts on Sunday, Major General Maan al-Saadi told reporters in Mosul, saying the militants were showing signs of weakness despite initial “fierce” resistance.
The IS has begun to lose command and control, he said, adding that around 17 out of 40 western districts had been retaken.
Mr. Saadi said he expected it would take less time to recapture the western half of the city than the east, which was cleared in January after 100 days of fighting.
More than 65,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in the past two weeks alone, bringing the total number to more than 200,000 since the campaign to recapture Mosul began, according to the International Organisation for Migration
Also, Iraqi archaeologists think that tunnels dug by IS militants under a destroyed shrine in Mosul have revealed the palace of an ancient Assyrian king who ruled some 2,700 years ago.
IS fighters blew up the shrine of the biblical Jonah’s tomb in 2014 after taking control of the city. They started digging tunnels into the side of the hill under the shrine, leading to the discovery.
Ancient inscriptions and winged bulls and lions were found deep in the tunnels, thought to be part of the palace of King Esarhaddon, who ruled the Neo-Assyrian empire in the 7th century B.C.