Nineveh (IraqiNews.com) The Iraqi Federal Police command said Monday its troops resumed advances towards a strategic mosque in western Mosul as operations continue to clear the region from Islamic State militants.
The command said its forces proceeded towards Al-Hadbaa (leaning) Minaret at the Grand Nuri al-Kabir Mosque, where Islamic State’s supreme leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi delivered a famous sermon in 2014 proclaiming the establishment of an “Islamic Caliphate” in Iraq.
The statement said forces had killed 36 Islamic State members and destroyed 13 booby-trapped vehicles.
Inclement weather over the past few days had added to the difficulties facing Iraqi troops eyeing the Old City, a strategic target where the mosque is located. The area’s narrow alleyways and the density of the civilian population therein had prompted Iraqi and U.S.-led coalition troops to rely solely on precision air and artillery strikes without advancing on the ground.
Iraqi government troops recaptured eastern Mosul in January and are working to retake the western side of the city, making a remarkable progress by recapturing major government facilities, the city’s airport and a major military base.
Operations in Mosul have displaced more than 200.000 civilians since October, according to Iraqi government and United Nations counts.