Rain hampers Iraqi soldiers’ push on Mosul’s Old City

Rain hampers Iraqi soldiers’ push on Mosul’s Old City
Displaced children evacuate a neighborhood in West Mosul during the government-led offensive to retake Iraq’s second largest city from Daesh. (AFP)
Updated 16 March 2017

Rain hampers Iraqi soldiers’ push on Mosul’s Old City

Rain hampers Iraqi soldiers’ push on Mosul’s Old City

MOSUL: Heavy rain slowed Iraqi government forces battling Daesh on Thursday around Mosul’s Old City, where militants holed up in narrow alleyways and homes resisted with sniper fire, suicide attacks and car bombs.
Troops from the federal police and elite Rapid Response units were about 500 meters from Al-Nuri Mosque from where Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate spanning Iraq and Syria in 2014.
The black terrorist flag was clearly visible draped from the mosque’s famous leaning minaret.
“We are holding positions we took yesterday. There is a lot of resistance in that area with snipers and car bombs,” Federal Police Maj. Gen. Haider Dhirgham told Reuters.
Earlier on Thursday, government forces had been attempting to encircle the Old City to bottle up Daesh fighters. Several more areas of western Mosul had been recaptured, including the hospital, over Wednesday and Thursday morning but officers said progress was slowed by car bombs and booby-traps in houses and alleyways. Then the advance was put on hold due to bad weather.
Daesh hit back with sporadic attacks on government positions, including mortar fire. Government forces responded with mortars and helicopter gunships strafed militant positions from above. Police said they had killed nine militants who tried to counter-attack one of their positions with rocket-propelled grenades.
“The enemy ... has started to set fire to houses which means that are on the retreat. They have destroyed homes and have destroyed families,” Dhirgham said. “We will liberate civilians before liberating the land,” Dhirgham added.
“I expect the liberation of Mosul completely in one month. I will not tell you one or two weeks, because that is not true, but within one or two months it will be completely liberated.”
As the battle now focuses on recapturing west Mosul, Col. Hussein Muayad’s federal police forces have adopted the tactic, equipping their own remote-controlled surveillance drones with 40 mm grenades that are usually fired from grenade launchers.
“Residents would stare at the sky” during the Mosul fighting, fearing Daesh drones, says Muayad, wearing a black jacket over his federal police uniform. “Now it is the enemy whose eyes never leave the sky.”
The mustachioed police officer in his 40s is clearly proud of the new military tactic.
“They used to hit us once. But we can hit them up to four times with a single drone,” he said.
Lt. Gen. Raed Shaker Jawdat of the federal police — who are taking part in the battle alongside a special forces unit — said the “new military tactic” has been very effective. “Dozens of terrorists have been killed and wounded. Terrorist movements have been paralyzed,” Jawdat said.