Iraqi government forces have registered more territorial gains in the militant-held Old City of Mosul as they continue their operations to push Takfiri Daesh terrorists out of their last urban stronghold in the Arab country.
Staff Lieutenant General Abdulghani al-Assadi, a senior commander in the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), said on Tuesday that the counter-terrorism offensives are proceeding as expected but the progress is slow.
“Things are good and the battle is going as planned. We have many obstacles – the nature of the land, the nature of the construction, the roads and the civilian population – all of which make us slow down our work,” he stated.
The high-ranking Iraqi military commander further noted that civilians are fleeing heavy fighting between Daesh militants and army soldiers in the Old City, and up to 400 people approached the positions of government forces on Monday.
Meanwhile, Commander of Federal Police Forces Lieutenant General Shaker Jawdat said security forces are moving forward on the southern front of the battle with the support of medium weapons and portable launchers.
He added that police forces have killed 27 terrorists, and destroyed three car bombs in addition to bombs strapped to six motorcycles.
Jawdat stressed that government troops have surrounded the Republican Hospital in the al-Shifa neighborhood of Mosul.
Later in the day, Iraqi forces managed to liberate the Health Department, the Fifth Bridge and al-Ihdath prison in western Mosul.
Taking back the Old City of Mosul, a densely populated warren of narrow alleyways on the western side of Mosul, is crucial to recapturing the whole of the former Daesh stronghold in Iraq.
The United Nations says around 150,000 civilians are trapped in the neighborhood along with hundreds of Daesh militants.
French & Kurdish journalists slain in Mosul blast
Separately, a French video journalist and his Iraqi colleague have lost their lives in a mine explosion in Mosul as they covering Iraqi forces’ advances there.
State-owned France Televisions said in a statement Tuesday that it “regrets to announce the death of Stephan Villeneuve, following a mine explosion in Mosul.”
The statement noted that Villeneuve had died of his injuries. He was reporting for investigative news program Envoye Special broadcast by France 2 national television channel.
Iraqi Kurdish journalist Bakhtiyar Haddad was also killed in the mine blast. He was working for the French team as a fixer and interpreter.
Two other reporters, one of them identified as Veronique Robert, suffered non-life-threatening injuries as well.
Iraqi army soldiers and volunteer fighters from the Popular Mobilization Units, commonly known by their Arabic name, Hashd al-Sha’abi, have made sweeping gains against Takfiri Daesh elements since launching the Mosul operation on October 17, 2016.
The Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting, and launched the battle in the west on February 19.
An estimated 862,000 people have been displaced from Mosul ever since the battle to retake the city began nine months ago. A total of 195,000 civilians have also returned, mainly to the liberated areas of eastern Mosul.