Iraqi forces retake western Mosul’s al-Najjar district, move closer to last IS haven

A smoke rises as Iraqi forces fight Islamic State militants in western Mosul, Iraq, April 29, 2017. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Mosul ( Iraqi government forces took over al-Najjar district in western Mosul on Monday, the Defense Ministry War Media Cell said as troops moved one more step towards the Islamic State-held Old City.

The media outlet said Iraqi forces recaptured the district and raised Iraqi flags above its buildings. Al-Najjar was one of a handful of remaining districts Iraqi forces are battling IS in to pave the way towards the ancient Old City, the highly prized target from where IS supreme leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed an “Islamic Caliphate” over large parts of Iraq and neighboring Syria.

Earlier this month, Iraqi government troops changed tactics and started charging at the Old City from the northwest, having besieged the area for weeks futilely from the south.

The impassable streets of the densely populated area, and the  high number of civilians believed  to be held as human shields there has made the invasion of the Old City a very delicate endeavor.

The Iraqi Joint Operations Command said recently it controls at least 89.5 percent of territory in western Mosul. Operations to retake that section of the city launched mid February. Eastern Mosul was recaptured in January. Some generals predict the city to be cleared from IS militants by the end of this month.

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