Iraqi forces control 75% of western Mosul: municipal official

Federal police members carry their weapons as they attempt to break into the Old City during a battle against Islamic State militants, in Mosul, Iraq March 19, 2017. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

Mosul ( Iraqi government forces have become in control over 75 percent of the western side of Mosul as battles continue with Islamic State militants, according to a local official.

Hossam al-Abbar, a member of the Nineveh province council, said in statements Monday that security troops were controlling 75 percent of the western side. He said battles are currently concentrated around the Grand Nuri al-Kabir Mosque in the Old City, where troops prepare to storm the area with snipers, hand grenades and assault rifles, excluding artillery and aircraft to prevent civilian casualties.

Government troops, backed by a U.S.-led coalition and paramilitary troops, recaptured eastern Mosul in January after three months of battles. They charged at the western side in February.

The Joint Operations Command said earlier this week its forces were controlling 60 percent of western Mosul. Police forces said Sunday they fully besieged the strategic Old City, home of the mosque where IS first declared the establishment of its rule in Iraq and neighboring Syria.

Mosul is Islamic State’s largest stronghold in Iraq, and losing the city would represent the strongest blow to the group which is also losing ground in neighboring Syria.

Iraqi and coalition commanders, while admitting fierce resistance from IS, say the group has no other option than to fight to death, saying they entirely encircled the group with no where to run to Syria.

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