The fighting for the Iraqi city of Mosul has become a close-quarters battle between hardened ISIS fighters and Iraqi special forces troops. The battle is now a no-holds-barred, house-to-house, street by street bloody affair as the Iraqis seek to drive the ISIS fighters out of the final large city of Iraq.
ISIS had named Mosul as their capital of their self-named caliphate and trying to hold onto the city at all costs and to extract the largest possible price by the Iraqi forces trying to take back their country.
Mosul is separated by the Tigris River that runs north-south. Iraqi forces supported by US Special Operations Forces captured the eastern part of the city late in 2016 and now are trying to recapture the western half.
“The fighting is at much closer quarters. It was street-by-street – now it’s house-by-house,” said Iraqi commando Alaa Shaker, 32, a member of the elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS).
“We are often literally in the same house, on the roof, and Daesh (Islamic State) is downstairs. Sometimes we drop grenades. If there are civilians, families in the homes, we shout to them to take cover inside a room.”
Seif Rasheed, a 28-year-old CTS medic, said one commando had been killed earlier that day in the same area, shot through the head, and another wounded, shot through the neck and hip.
“Daesh are hiding in homes, opening doors and shooting at troops from just a few meters away,” he said.
The men were speaking as they took a break from the fighting to eat lunch in the courtyard of a western Mosul home, in a neighborhood recaptured from Islamic State the day before.
ISIS militants are far outnumbered in Mosul but are delaying the battle by hiding among the large civilian populace, using suicide car bombs, IEDs, and snipers in the built-up areas. The fighting is expected to last several more weeks.
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Photo courtesy DOD