Soldiers take combat positions as Iraqi security forces advance during fighting against ISIS militants in western Mosul, Iraq. Photo: AP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – ISIS launched a wide-scale counterattack on the Iraqi army to break out of the Old Mosul neighbourhood, the extremist group’s last major holdout in the western half of Mosul where they are surrounded by Iraqi forces. The confrontation killed 11 Iraqi Federal Police and some 40 ISIS militants.
Najim al-Jabouri, commander of the Nineveh Operations Command, announced that militants began an assault on the Bab al-Sinjar, Shifa, and Zanjil areas in Old Mosul at 3 am Wednesday, but were "fiercely repulsed and the assault was defeated."
Iraq's War Command explained in a statement that "a number of ISIS militants at the dawn of the day were able to infiltrate from the Old City to the Danadan area alongside the [Tigris] river."
The statement added that Federal Police immediately engaged ISIS in a fight that lasted nearly five hours.
Rudaw's war reporter in west Mosul, Hunar Ahmed, reported from the scene that 40 ISIS fighters launched the counterattack, all suicide bombers, and they were killed in confrontations with the army, according to army officials.
Eleven members of the Federal Police were also killed, The Associated Press reported, citing Iraqi army officials.
There are just three districts in total, including Old Mosul, al-Sinjar and Shifa, that haven't been announced cleared of the 1,000 or fewer ISIS militants believed to remain in the heart of west Mosul, near where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the so-called Islamic Caliphate on July 4, 2014 in al-Nuri mosque.
The fight for Old Mosul is expected to be the bloodiest in a conflict that has already been marked by horrific civilian casualties.
Iraqi forces have also been trying to take control of Shifa hospital in the neighborhood for a few weeks, but have not yet reached it.
Correction: an earlier version of the story reported that the ISIS leader declared his caliphate on June 29, 2014 in Mosul. While it is true that the caliphate was declared on that date, Baghdadi named himself in the al-Nuri mosque a caliph or the leader of Muslims on July 4, 2014 in Mosul as he led Friday prayers.