Iraqi security services are trying to contain ISIL fighters within the old city of Mosul ahead of a major offensive. The government forces had previously attempted to clear Mosul before the start of the holy month of Ramadan, but have met fierce resistance.
CGTN’s Tony Cheng went behind the lines with Federal police troops fighting in the Al Zanjilli district. It’s one of the few remaining in ISIL’s control. He filed this report on the ongoing struggle.
A federal police mortar pit sends a six kilo shell into Mosul’s old city.
The Iraqi security forces have been trying to reduce the number of artillery and airstrikes used in dense urban areas, but it is a necessary evil.
We’re targeting a group of ISIL fighters, the commander said. The intelligence is coming from an American drone. There are still 100,000 people trapped inside ISIL territory and they’re being used as human shields.
Getting to the front lines is perilous. ISIL snipers are watching the open ground. The only safe way to progress is through abandoned houses as mortars whistle overhead
At a forward position troops were taking a break. It is the holy month of Ramadan, and there are more lulls during the fighting.
But, they said ISIL fighters are waking up and trying to re-take positions lost during the night and the coalition airstrikes are still being used to clear their path.
ISIL mortars targeting their positions have often been well off target. But, they were getting better at finding their range.
Behind the front lines, the local commander was briefing his troops. ISIL fighters were pushing back, but he was confident the lines would hold.
“We always change our tactics, but ISIL can’t change their plans because they’re now surrounded in a small area. this is a last gasp effort,” federal police Colonel Hayder Jasem Al Kinany said.
With ISIL surrounded in the old city, Iraqi forces are preparing for a major offensive to retake their final enclave, but that won’t be soon enough for one couple whose
house was hit by an airstrike. ISIL had forced them to stay inside.
“You can’t do anything to help,” a distraught mother said. “You weren’t here when they were killing us. Eleven members of my family were killed. Now my son is dead, too. That makes twelve.”
Out of seventeen family members, only five survived. The end of the battle may be in sight, but for many in this city, that’s too late.