Mosul – While Iraqi forces advanced on Thursday on the Grand al-Nuri Mosque in central Mosul where ISIS militants are fortified in one third of the western city’s remaining pockets, the terrorist organization shelled mortars at hundreds of displaced people escaping the Zanjili district, killing seven civilians and injuring at least 23 others.
ISIS is currently trapped in Zanjili, the central Old City and in the Medical City district after Iraqi forces launched a military operation last Saturday to recapture the area over which coalition warplanes dropped leaflets calling on civilians to evacuate.
The wounded from Zanjili were taken to a field clinic, a police officer told Reuters on Thursday, adding that more people could have been killed while trying to flee. They were part of the first group of civilians who have managed to escape.
Several dozen others were able to reach government-held lines unhurt, using the same exit route, the officer said.
Meanwhile, two residents from the area revealed that ISIS militants began moving their prisoners out of the Medical City district.
The militants ordered dozens of families living in the Zanjili district to move into the Old City to prevent them from escaping toward the Iraqi forces, a resident told Reuters on Wednesday.
The Iraqi Federal Police said on Thursday that its forces’ lines of defense were now 150 meters away from ISIS positions in the Old City.
They were now advancing from all directions towards the area in a move to tighten the noose on ISIS militants, who are locked up in the Grand al-Nuri Mosque, ahead of launching the decisive battle.
On Wednesday, Reuters said dozens of militants were seen by residents taking up positions around the medieval mosque, the site where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a so-called “caliphate” in July 2014.