Twenty Islamic State members killed sneaking into Mosul bridge

Twenty Islamic State members were killed trying to reach an old bridge in Mosul, an officer was quoted saying Sunday as security operations near a total recapture of the groupís largest stronghold in Iraq.

Brig. Gen. Mohamed Jubouri, from the Iraqi Joint Operations Command, said the twenty militants killed included senior leaders of Arab nationalities as well as Western nationals. They were bound to a security deployment near the Old Bridge, said the officer.

On Saturday, Iraqi forces recaptured the 17 Tamuz (July 17th) district, Islamic Stateís largest entrenchment in western Mosul and the first district the group took over in Mosul in 2014.

The JOC said last week it controls 89.5 percent of western Mosul and had killed more than 16000 militants since operations launched in October to retake the city. Some generals had predicted to liberate the city before the end of May.

Iraqi troopsí primary and final target is the Old City, an ancient neighborhood impassable for Iraqi security vehicles where hundreds of thousands of civilians are believed to be held by the extremist group as human shields.

Iraqi troops took up a new axis of operations earlier this month, aiming at the Old City from the northwest rather than from the south.