Iraqi special forces killed 21 ISIL members in a snap operation at a Western Mosul district where troops struggle to invade on their way to the strategic Old City.
Cap. Abdul-Wadoud al-Anbari said the Interior Ministry’s Rapid Response teams and the army’s 9th division killed 21 militants, including five snipers, in al-Shefa district, one of the last three districts surrounding the IS-held Old City area, Shafaq News reported.
Since late April, Iraqi forces began a push towards the medieval Old City from the Northwest, retaking several surrounding districts. At present, only three neighborhoods of Zanjili, al-Sihha and al-Shefa, around the Old City remain under ISIL control.
The Old City was the place where Islamic State’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared the establishment of the group’s rule in Iraq and Syria.
The area’s impassable alleyways have made it hard for army and police vehicles to go through, and the existence of at least 200.000 civilians under ISIL captivity has also slowed down the pace of operations, according to Iraqi generals.
Iraqi government troops, regained control over Eastern Mosul in January after three months of fighting.
Some commanders hope the city will be recaptured on June 10th, the day it fell to ISIL fighters in 2014. They had previously predicted the city to be liberated before the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, which began May 27th.