Iraq’s armed forces opened a new front against ISIS in the city of Mosul on Thursday, advancing on the jihadists’ enclave from the northwest, a military commander and officers said.
The army’s 9th Armored Division and the Rapid Response units of the Interior Ministry were headed towards the city, the commander said.
Forces from the army, the interior ministry and the police “began breaching the western side from the north,” the Joint Operations Command coordinating the war against the terrorist organization also said in a statement.
It said the targets of the latest push were northwestern neighborhoods on the edges of Mosul called Musharifah, Kanisah and Al-Haramat.
An advance from the north will eventually leave the jihadists completely trapped in the narrow streets of the Old City, albeit with a large civilian population they have been using as human shields.
The attack would help the elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) and Interior Ministry Federal Police troops who were painstakingly advancing from the south, the commander said.
A US-led international coalition is providing key air and ground support to the offensive on Mosul, ISIS’ de facto capital in Iraq, which started in October.
The militants are now besieged in the northwestern corner of Mosul which includes the historic Old City center and the Grand al-Nuri Mosque.
It was from the pulpit of this mosque nearly three years ago that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a “caliphate” that also spanned parts of Syria.