Surprise attack sees Iraqi forces advance near key Mosul mosque

Military officers state that this it is predicted as Iraqi forces attempt to reclaim Mosul in what is known as the last major urban hurdle towards defeating extremist Sunni militant groups in Iraq.

The military is now involved in an offensive in the more densely-populated western Mosul where more than half of the area has been retaken.

About the US -led coalition's coordination with Iraqi forces in Mosul operations, al-Alusi said: "Poor weather conditions in the region have reduced airstrikes of the worldwide coalition's warplanes on Daesh-linked sites in western Mosul".

"The [IS] terrorist gangs tried to block the advance of our forces by using shells filled with toxic chemical material, but the effect was limited", Iraq's Joint Operations Command said on April 16.

However, the western part of Mosul, with its narrow streets and heavily populated neighborhoods, appears to be a bigger challenge to the Iraqi forces.

As many as half a million are estimated to remain overall in neighbourhoods still under control of the militants in western Mosul, the organisation said in a statement on Monday.

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Mosul, the largest city in northern Iraq, was captured by the ultra-hardline Sunni Muslim fighters in mid 2014.

Drones are being used to locate and direct air strikes on the militants who are dug in the middle of civilians, he said.

"We are expected to liberate the area today", he said. He said the area will be cleared from militants soon.

The jihadists have "reconstituted attack capabilities in Diyala and central Salaheddin", he said, referring to provinces where Iraqi forces had largely reasserted control after heavy fighting earlier in the war against IS.

- November 3: IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi breaks a year-long silence, urging followers to fight to the death for Mosul.

Using satellite imagery and local researches, the most recent evaluation confirms that western Mosul has undergone extensive destruction, "far greater than in the east", according to a senior United Nations aid official in the country.

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