ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — ISIS militants reclaimed the strategic Kornish Street in the Old Mosul district after they launched a counterattack, said a Rudaw reporter in Mosul, adding that Iraqi armed forces have been trying to drive the militants out of the area once again.
Reporting from the Maliya neighborhood in western Mosul, Rudaw correspondent Farhad Dolamari said ISIS militants have forced the advancing Iraqi troops to withdraw from Kornish Street in the Old Mosul district. It is near the Hadba Minaret and the Great Mosque, also known as the Nur Mosque, where the group’s leader Abu Bakir al-Baghdadi declared his caliphate.
Dolamari reported heavy clashes have been underway since 8 a.m. with Iraqi forces attacking ISIS positions in the embattled Old district from the air and on the ground.
Citing army officials, Dolamari revealed, the battle is tough as foreign nationals are among the ISIS radicals fighting in the area.
In mid-March the Iraqi army’s elite Rapid Response Force supported by the helicopters overhead, entered the commercial district of Kornish in the old town but their advance was abruptly halted by ISIS sniper attacks.
Kornish includes some of Mosul’s tallest buildings, prior to the ISIS takeover in 2014, which have largely been leveled to ground by months-long bombing raids.
The day before Iraqi officials claimed their forces had been exposed to chemical weapons.
"The Daesh terrorist gangs tried to block the advance of our forces by using shells filled with toxic chemical material, but the effect was limited," an Iraqi military statement said on Sunday, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.
Officers in Iraq's Federal Police said that ISIS shelled government forces with chemical weapons agents in the Urouba and Bab Jadid districts on Saturday, according to Reuters, adding that the attack caused only minor wounds.
Brigadier General Yahya Rasool was reported by The Associated Press on Sunday as saying that six soldiers had suffered breathing problems from the attack, and that an investigation would be launched.
In early March, Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations Mohamed Ali Alhakim told reporters that there was “no evidence” that ISIS had used chemical weapons in Mosul.
Alhakim's comments came after the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on March 3 that at least 12 people were been admitted to the hospital with symptoms indicating they were exposed to toxins from chemical weapons.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi also denied last month's reports about the chemical attack in the northern city of Mosul. He called the reports “wrong."
“According to our information and our follow up, if ISIS were capable of using chemical weapons, they would have used it,” Abadi said in Sulaimani, “But according to our information, they do not have that capability to use it. And what happened actually is a mixture of smoke and gas, and not a chemical weapon. It has a very limited impact.”