Iraqi Forces Launch Operation to Seize Last Daesh Enclave in Mosul

Mosul is a large city comprised of dense built-up neighborhoods, ancient, congested districts and agricultural suburbs. "In that house over there, more than 30 were killed and another family up there", he said pointing down one street and up another.

The villages taken by the Popular Mobilisation paramilitary force include Kojo, where IS fighters abducted hundreds of Yazidi women in 2014, including Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar, recipients of the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought.

Once Iraqi forces take over these last remaining neighborhoods, the Iraqi government will announce the liberation of Mosul from ISIS, the command said.

Iraqi forces launched the major operation to retake Mosul in October past year, fighting their way to the city and retaking its eastern side before setting their sights on its smaller but more densely populated west. Boko Haram, an ISIS-affiliate in Nigeria, is notorious for attacking civilian targets with female suicide bombers, many of whom are suspected of being coerced into service.

They began a new offensive to recapture Mosul's Old City from three directions. O'Brien stated that authorities had urged the people to leave the Old City, but IS prevented many of them from doing so.

Iraq has also opened an inquiry into claims that its forces abused and killed civilians in the battle for the city.

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The predominantly Shiite Hashd Shaabi units, backed by army's helicopter gunships, fought sporadic clashes against IS militants during the day and killed some 19 extremist militants, the statement said. Mosul residents have been suffering from food shortages for months, a hardship expected to be exacerbated during the holy month of Ramadan that began Friday night, when Muslims fast during daylight hours.

On Friday, Iraqi forces dropped thousands of leaflets over western Mosul, telling those in their homes to flee.

In this May 15, 2017, file photo, an Iraqi boy carries heavy belongings through the rubble as he flees fighting between Iraqi special forces and Islamic State militants, in western Mosul, Iraq.

"Although the United Nations is not present in the areas where fighting is occurring, we have received very disturbing reports of families being shut inside booby-trapped homes and of children being deliberately targeted by snipers", Stephen O'Brien, the UN's under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, said in a statement on Saturday.

"We are noticing that the closer we get to the Old City, the greater the resistance", he added, looking over the roughly 8 square kilometers (3 square miles) of Mosul territory still in IS hands on a satellite mapping app. Save the Children warned that fleeing civilians could be caught in the crossfire, leading to "deadly chaos".

  • Desiree Holland