Nineveh (IraqiNews.com) The Iraqi Federal Police command has reiterated it was “very close” to a strategic mosque in western Mosul, proceeding with operations to clear the region from Islamic State militants.
The service’s chief, Shaker Jawdat, said in a statement on Sunday that his forces were very close to the Grand Nuri Mosque in Old Mosul, another primary target for Iraqi security forces seeking to eradicate IS from western Mosul since February.
“Federal Police troops have become very close to liberating al-Hadbaa Minaret, the second most important strategic target in western Mosul after the liberated government buildings,” Jawdat said, using the Arabic common reference to the mosque’s “leaning” minaret.
The Nuri Mosque was the location where IS supreme leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi delivered his famous sermon in 2014 to declare the establishment of a self-styled “Islamic Caliphate” in Iraq, appointing himself as a Caliph “ruler” of the proclaimed state.
Jawdat added that his forces, advancing towards the mosque, killed tens of militants and destroyed 23 booby-trapped vehicles.
Iraqi government forces recaptured eastern Mosul from IS in January after three months of fighting, and launched a second offensive in February to retake the western region.
Forces have made remarkable achievements since February, retaking main government buildings, the city’s airport and a major military base. The troops have recently pushed deeper into the Old City, a densely-populated and -structured area which military officials view as central to the desired victory over IS militants.
Also on Sunday, the U.S.-led military coalition backing the Iraqi government in its battle said it launched eight airstrikes against IS locations in Anbar, Salahuddin and Mosul.