USA -backed Iraqi forces were fighting their way through a government complex in the heart of western Mosul after storming the buildings in an overnight raid, and were facing fierce counterattacks Tuesday from the Islamic State group.
ISIS snipers have proven remarkably successful at slowing the advances of Iraqi ground troops, particularly those which had limited training in preparation for urban combat. After Iraqi government forces recaptured part of the city last month, a team of local archaeologists began documenting the damage done to the Nebi Yunus shrine.
Mosul is split by the Tigris River, and its eastern side is referred to as the left bank, while the western is known as the right bank.
The Iraqi military said that forces from the Hashed al-Shaabi – an umbrella group of pro-government forces that are dominated by Iran-backed Shiite militias – were among the units that recaptured the prison from the jihadists.
Later on Wednesday, the Iraqi military said the army and Shi’ite paramilitary forces had taken full control of the last major road leading west out of Mosul towards the town of Tal Afar, state TV reported.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to head a meeting of dozens of countries and worldwide organizations this month focused on fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but the Islamic State jihadist group carries out frequent suicide bombings targeting both civilians and members of the security forces in Iraq.
A fighter from Iraq’s elite Counter-Terrorism Service takes cover inside a building in Shuhada, west Mosul.
About 500 United States military advisers were already deployed along with the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters that Washington regards as the force best equipped to drive ISIS out.
“Just when you think they are looking weak, they come back stronger”, Sgt Alaa Hassan, from a position 4km south of Mosul, said.
People had to haggle with their neighbors to make sure that everyone got the food that they needed, he said.
Islamic State militants destroyed the Prophet’s tomb in July 2014, after they captured Mosul along with large swathes of northern Iraq.
In November deadly and apparently diversionary bomb attacks by the group hit Tikrit and Samarra, both north of Baghdad.
Iraqi F-16s carried out a strike on a house, near the Syrian border in western Iraq, where he was thought to be meeting other commanders, it said.
US Air Force Brig Gen Matthew Isler told Reuters that the game is over as Islamic state defenders left behind by their commander are making all efforts to leave the city and are not able to put up a fierce fight.