(IraqiNews.com/Reuters) Five Iraqi civilians died Thursday by gunshots from Islamic State snipers while fleeing a district held by the group, security sources told Shafaaq News website.
The civilians were escaping Zanjili, where, the source said, Iraqi government forces regained control over 40 percent of areas on their way to invade the Old City. The source added that troops evacuated more than 150 families from the area.
About a dozen civilians were wounded on Thursday by Islamic State mortar shells as they tried to escape from the Zanjili district held by the militants in Mosul, Iraqi police said, according to Reuters.
Zanjili is part of the enclave that remains in the hands of Islamic State in the northern Iraqi city, alongside the Old City center and the Medical City hospitals complex.
U.S.-backed government forces began operations on May 27 to capture the enclave, regularly dropping leaflets telling families to flee.
The casualties from Zanjili were taken to a field clinic, said a police officer. They were part of the first group of civilians who have managed to escape.
Several dozen other civilians managed to reach government-held lines unhurt, using the same exit route, a police officer told Reuters.
The militants ordered dozens of families living in Zanjili district to move into the Old City to prevent them escaping toward the Iraqi forces, a resident told Reuters on Wednesday.
The Mosul offensive, now in its eighth month, has taken much longer than expected, with Iraqi government advances slowed by the need to avoid civilian casualties.
The fall of the city would, in effect, mark the end of the Iraqi half of the ”caliphate” declared in 2014 over parts of Iraq and Syria by Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in speech from a historic mosque in Mosul’s old city.
In Syria, Kurdish forces backed by U.S.-air strikes are besieging Islamic State forces in the city of Raqqa, the militants’ de facto capital in that country.