According to a statement provided by Colonel Ryan Dillon, the new spokesman assigned to Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), the Islamic State has been backed into their last remaining 10 square kilometers of Mosul, but the fighting that remains promises to be among the most brutal faced by coalition backed Iraqi Security Forces thus far in the operation.

According to the Colonel, Coalition forces aided in Iraqi efforts with no less than 21 air strikes on Islamic State targets in and around Mosul last week.  Those air strikes took out “mortars, machine guns, multiple vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, and VBIED factories.”

“The Iraqi security forces continue to make steady progress as they close in on the remaining three ISIS-held neighborhoods of West Mosul.”  Colonel Dillon said.   “The remaining ISIS fighters hold less than 10 square kilometers of the city.  Liberating these final neighborhoods will be among the most difficult fighting the ISF has faced in their campaign to defeat ISIS.”

According to a Defense Department statement, the Iraqi government has instructed civilians remaining in Mosul to evacuate immediately, but both nations recognize that many civilians remain unable to escape safely.  Many civilians have been killed or injured in their attempts to flee ISIS held territory by mortar and sniper fire.

“We’ve heard multiple first-person accounts, daily accounts of ISIS’s attempts to prevent citizens from leaving.  Citizens have been herded and forced into buildings being trapped to use for ISIS’ sinister tactics.  They have been shot by ISIS snipers while trying to evacuate.  And we have seen them victims of ISIS-emplaced bombs and bobby-traps as they attempt to flee.”  Dillon explained.

Reports that emerged from Mosul in April claimed ISIS has been herding civilians in al-Jawsaq and surrounding areas deeper into Islamic State controlled portions of the city.  As a result of this tactic, Iraqi security forces are working to establish routes of safe passage along their forward lines that can help usher civilians to muster points where they are screened at sites located outside the city.

“Capacity is available at nearby IDP camps, but getting away from ISIS is the critical factor,” Dillon said.

U.S. and Iraqi officials discuss victory in Mosul, continued challenges in the fight against ISIS

Read Next: U.S. and Iraqi officials discuss victory in Mosul, continued challenges in the fight against ISIS

Last month, more than 1,500 civilians were rescued from ISIS controlled territory in the newly liberated al-Mamoun neighborhood in southwestern Mosul.  ISIS had been “holding them as human shields,” according Jasem Mohammad al-Jaff, Iraq’s minister of migration and displacement.

ISIS fighters have also reportedly been commandeering civilian vehicles for use as Vehicle Borne IEDS (VBIEDS) or to create road blocks that prevent Iraqi security forces from entering ISIS controlled parts of the city with their armored vehicles.  Smaller vehicles are reportedly used to create barriers, while larger ones like SUVs are kept to be used as transports or to be weaponized.

“With the car bomb threat in mind, the government of Iraq directed civilians not to use cars or motorcycles to avoid being mistaken for militants.  And this is necessary to mitigate the vehicle-borne IED threat, which has been the enemy’s weapon of choice in Mosul.” Colonel Dillon explained.

Image courtesy of they Associated Press