Iraqi security forces advance during fighting against ISIS in western Mosul. AP file photo
MOSUL, Iraq – Fierce armed clashes between the advancing Iraqi troops and ISIS militants are taking place around the last five districts the group holds in the western half of Mosul.
Embedded with the Iraqi army in western Mosul, Rudaw’s Ranja Jamal reported on Sunday that heavy confrontations are ongoing in Najar neighborhood as the army managed to break into it the area and have Bab al-Sinjar besieged.
Abdulwahab Saadi, an official with the US-trained Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (ICTS), told Rudaw that large segments of Najar were controlled by the ICTS forces, who had begun to advance on Bab al-Sinjar.
Saadi said ISIS militants were putting up stiff resistance given they are on the brink of final defeat in Mosul.
Plumes of smoke could be seen covering the skyline over Najar neighborhood as ISIS was being bombed on the ground and from the air.
ICTS officials said in a press conference on Saturday that Najar neighborhood remained for them to liberate and their mission would be accomplished in western Mosul after they took control of 47 neighborhoods in the western half of the city of Mosul in the course of the last three months.
Saadi explained to Rudaw that ISIS retains control of just five neighborhoods overall in Mosul, including the Old Mosul district, Shifa, Saha, Bab al-Sinjar and Zanjali
ISIS has placed a large number of militants in these four remaining places, he added.
Old Mosul remains the last stronghold of ISIS in the city. In previous battles the army faced strong resistance when they tried to make advances against ISIS militants in Old Mosul, a more densely populated neighborhood with narrow streets. As a result, Iraqi armed forces were forced to shift their focus and instead open a new front in northwestern Mosul.
Iraqi armed forces launched a massive assault on ISIS held districts in northwestern Mosul over the weekend.
Mosul is the largest and last major urban area where ISIS remains in control.
Also on Saturday, Brig. Fazil Barwari, a commander with the ICTS, told Rudaw that in the three months of the fight to liberate west Mosul, more than 200 car bombs were destroyed and more than 5,000 militants were killed.
“In the course of 85 days, 213 car bombs ISIS used were detonated before they targeted the Iraqi forces,” said Barwari. “5,622 ISIS militants were also killed in west Mosul.”
He estimated that as many as five thousand civilians daily flee west Mosul and their forces transfer them by 150 buses to displacement camps.
ISIS took over Mosul in June 2014. The group was cleared out of eastern Mosul in January 2017 and Iraqi and US officials expect final victory in the western side of the city in the coming weeks.
Iraqi armed forces have repeatedly said the ultimate liberation of the city from ISIS will be declared before the start of the holy month of Ramadan on May 26.