June 18 (UPI) — Iraqi officials said security forces launched an offensive on Sunday in Mosul’s Old City to capture remaining territory from the Islamic State.
Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed Mukhtar said security forces broke the Islamic State’s siege of the Mosul district and entered from two neighboring districts. Mukhtar said the Islamic State launched at least 10 car bomb attacks to halt the advance of forces.
The Old City is the last Mosul district in which the Islamic State has full control. Iraqi Federal Police Comdr. Mahmood Saed told Rudaw he believes Mosul will be completely freed from Islamic State control in the coming days.
The United Nations estimates up to 100,000 civilians are trapped in the densely populated Old City. Iraq has called on civilians for weeks to flee the district if they could do so safely.
Iraqi forces for five days have used loudspeakers to urge Islamic State militants in the Old City to surrender. Iraqi officials estimate less than 1,000 Islamic State militants are in the district.
Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service Comdr. Abdul Ghani al-Asadi said the Sunday morning assault was first met with “strong resistance” and said he expects “slow progress” due to the Old City’s narrow streets and densely populated areas.
Iraq launched its military offensive to retake western Mosul from the Islamic State on Feb. 19. The offensive to retake Mosul began Oct. 17, led by Iraqi security forces and aided by the Kurdish Peshmerga, a Shiite-led militia, and the U.S.-led international coalition. Iraq captured east Mosul in late January.