Iraqi authorities have dropped leaflets over Mosul warning civilians to stay inside and are telling ISIS terrorists to “surrender or die” a day after US-backed Iraqi troops launched a major battle to retake the Old City.
The Old City is the last district of Mosul still held by the terrorist organization after a months-long offensive.
Late on Sunday, Iraqi forces dropped nearly 500,000 leaflets over the city, warning that they “have started attacking from all directions”.
The leaflets calls on civilians to “stay away from open spaces and… to exploit any opportunity that arises during the fighting” to escape.
Commanders say the jihadists are putting up fierce resistance and there are concerns for the more than 100,000 civilians believed to remain inside the Old City.
Iraqi forces have stationed Humvees by the Grand Mosque on the eastern side of Mosul, which faces the Old City and is mounted with speakers.
The loudspeakers have been blaring messages to civilians, saying Iraqi forces “are about to end your suffering”.
Messages were also being broadcast to ISIS militants, telling them: “You have only this choice: surrender or die”.
The push into Mosul’s Old City — a densely populated warren of narrow alleyways on the western side of Iraq’s second city — marks the culmination of a months-long campaign by Iraqi forces to retake the terrorist group’s last major urban stronghold in the country.
Meanwhile, diplomats said that the European Union may send a new security mission to help stabilize Iraq after the expected recapture of Mosul, cautioning that plans were at an early stage.
EU foreign ministers will hold a first discussion on Monday in Luxembourg and consider the deployment of an EU Security Sector Reform Advice and Assist Team which could train Iraq security officials, according to a draft statement seen by Reuters.
Iraq has formally requested EU help, diplomats said.
While a small step, any such effort could signal an end to France and Germany’s aversion to European Union involvement in Middle East wars in the wake of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, which Berlin and Paris opposed.
ISIS’ loss of Mosul would mark the effective end of the Iraqi portion of the cross-border “caliphate” that the group declared in the summer of 2014 after seizing large parts of Iraq and neighboring Syria.
But U S officials are concerned tribal groups may fight for control as the militants flee.
“We cannot afford to allow a vacuum to develop,” said one EU diplomat briefed on the EU discussions. “We and others are ready to step in. Just how we do that is to be decided.”
The EU’s foreign service, the European External Action Service, is expected to present proposals soon.