Iraqi forces gain more ground as battle for Mosul nears endgame

Press TV – Iraqi government forces have recaptured more areas in the heart of Mosul’s Old City as they are entering the final stages of a months-long military offensive to retake the country’s second largest city from the Daesh Takfiri terrorists.

Commander of Nineveh Liberation Operation Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Yarallah stated on Sunday that Iraqi Federal Police forces had liberated the Makawi area of the Old City, and hoisted the national Iraqi flag over a cluster of buildings there, Arabic-language al-Sumaria television network reported.

Commander of Federal Police Forces Lieutenant General Shaker Jawdat also said security forces had completely retaken Bilal al-Habashi Mosque in Bab al-Jadid neighborhood of Mosul’s Old City.

He noted that Federal Police forces were advancing from three sides, and were pursuing Daesh terrorists in the few remaining militant-held areas of the Old City.

Iraqi army soldiers and volunteer fighters from the Popular Mobilization Units, commonly known by their Arabic name, Hashd al-Sha’abi, have made sweeping gains against Daesh since launching the Mosul operation on October 17, 2016.

The Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting, and launched the battle in the west on February 19. Iraqi authorities expect the battle to end within the next few days as the remaining Daesh elements are bottled up in a few districts of the Old City.

An estimated 862,000 people have been displaced from Mosul ever since the battle to retake the city began nine months ago. A total of 195,000 civilians have also returned, mainly to the liberated areas of eastern Mosul.

Daesh sets 50 lashes for anyone speaking of Baghdadi’s death

Meanwhile, Daesh has meted out a punishment of 50 lashes for whoever talking about the death of the terror group’s purported leader, Ibrahim al-Samarrai aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

A local source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the extremists had distributed leaflets across the city of Tal Afar, located 63 kilometers west of Mosul, warning local residents of the penalty.

The measure came two days after a Friday prayer sermon delivered by a close aide to Baghdadi stoked suspicions about his possible death in operations by Iraqi forces.

Violence claimed more than 410 Iraqi civilians’ lives in June: UN

Separately, the United Nations (UN) says acts of terrorism and violence left more than 410 people dead in Iraq in the month of June.

According to the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), a total of 411 Iraqi civilians lost their lives and 294 others sustained injuries last month.

The UN mission said a large portion of the fatalities was recorded in the beleaguered northern province of Nineveh, where 289 civilians were killed and 93 others wounded.

Iraqi civilians and security forces gather at the site of a car bomb explosion near Baghdad’s al-Shuhada Bridge on May 30, 2017, which killed at least five people and wounded 17 others. (Photo by AFP)

The capital province of Baghdad witnessed 22 deaths.

Jan Kubis, the special representative of the UN secretary-general for Iraq, renewed his call for the protection of civilians amid clashes between Iraqi government forces and Daesh militants.

He condemned Daesh’s continued and deliberate targeting of civilians in Mosul and elsewhere in Iraq.

“We are seeing the end of Daesh in Mosul as Iraqi forces close in on the terrorists in the city’s old quarters; but there are civilians who remain trapped in the area or are held as human shields by the terrorists. The well-being of civilians is a matter of extreme concern for us,” Kubis commented.