Baghdad and Mosul – ISIS militants captured an Iraqi police colonel and eight other officers on Monday after they ran out of ammunition during a skirmish in the battle for western Mosul, an Iraqi interior ministry official announced.
The official stated that the incident took place at around three in the morning as government forces closed in on ISIS fighters in the Old City and other districts, in an offensive intended to crush the hardline group.
Interior ministry official told Reuters that nine men were captured in the early hours of Monday in the Bab Jadid district.
Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces continue their advance into Mosul’s Old City as thousands of civilians remain under the ISIS rule.
Security personnel, however, have highlighted the struggle to advance into the Old City because of narrow alleyways and crowded streets, which makes it difficult for military vehicles to pass through, putting lives of civilians in further danger.
Regaining control over the Old City is a great achievement for the security forces especially the city center where the Great Mosque of al-Nuri is located, the place where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate in 2014.
The commander of the Rapid Response Division’s Second Brigade General Mahdi Abbas Abdullah told AFP that Iraqi forces aimed to press forward to enter the Old City.
“The offensive has resumed in the same area as yesterday…which is made up of large buildings, markets, and narrow streets where the enemy is hiding,” he stated.
He declared that between 20 and 30 ISIS militants were killed on Sunday, adding that the forces are heading towards the Iron Bridge next.
Iraqi Forces had regained several important locations and neighborhoods including the Nineveh City Council building and Museum of Mosul.
Meanwhile, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Iraq Lise Grande has warned of “terrible danger” civilians face as forces advance.
Grande issued a statement saying that people fleeing are reporting difficulty in entering or leaving the Old City. She added that families are at risk of being shot if they leave and they are at risk if they stay.
“It’s horrible. Hundreds of thousands of civilians are trapped and they are in terrible danger,” Grande stated.
Families fleeing the city are reporting that shelves are empty and that the only food available is what they already have at home. Water and electricity supplies have been cut and medicines are running out. “The situation is very dramatic,” the UN coordinator cautioned, adding: “We fear it will get far worse in the days and weeks ahead.”
Yet, despite battles on the west side of Mosul, families are still able to escape.
Iraqi government said that more than 180,000 people have fled west Mosul. Some 111,000 have sought shelter in 17 nearby camps and reception centers while many others have stayed with relatives, the ministry of displacement and migration said.
Minister of Displacement and Migration Jassim Mohammed al-Jaaf issued a statement stating that the number of displaced people from both sides of Mosul left and right amounted to 355 thousand displaced since the start the military campaign to restore the governorate from ISIS in 17 October 2016.
Grande said that humanitarian agencies are bracing for the possibility that an additional 300,000-320,000 civilians may flee in coming weeks.
The minister confirmed that the ministry will continue to do its best to ensure all people receive the proper help they need.
Jaaf pointed out that the ministry is working in coordination with its partners to have the possibility to receive the 100,000 displaced people in the south and east of Nineveh.
He did however declare that the crisis exceeds the ministry’s capabilities despite having prepared for Mosul battle months prior to its initiation.