Islamic State evacuate Mosul’s Old City civilians as battles with security heighten

Children fleeing Mosul amid intense fighting.

Mosul ( Islamic State militants have started to evacuate civilians at western Mosul’s Old City and transfer them to neighboring districts as encounters with government troops intensify around the strategic area.

Shafaaq News website quoted local sources saying that IS started Tuesday to forcibly move residents of al-Saa, Serjkhana, Bab Jadid and Bab al-Beed in the Old City to move to the neighboring districts of Mashahda and Zanjili.

Commanders from the Iraqi side as well as from the allied U.S.-led coalition have accused Islamic State of using civilians in Mosul as human shields since operations launched in October to retake the city. Anxiousness to ensure civilians’ safety has prompted security troops to change tactics and slow down the pace at many occasions, most recently in March as hundreds of civilians died in security operations as well as from IS assaults.

Police forces have been besieging the the IS-held mosque over the past few weeks preparing to storm it. Retaking the mosque will represent a symbolic victory, being the location where Islamic State founder, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared the establishment of the group’s rule in Iraq and Syria in 2014.

On Monday, the Federal Police command said its troops brought down 60 percent of IS defenses around the Old City. Earlier on Tuesday, police chief Lt. Gen. Shaker Jawdat said in statements that a commando force launched a “surprise attack” near the Hadbaa (leaning) Minaret, the quaint structure at the strategic Grand Nuri Mosque in the Old City, killing five militants.

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