Officer, 4 civilians killed during Mosul battles Monday

One special police force officer and four civilians were killed on Monday during battles against Islamic State militants in western Mosul, security and local sources said.

Shafaaq News website quoted a security source that a lieutenant colonel at the Interior Ministry’s Rapid Response forces was killed during battles in Zanjili, one of the last three remaining districts around the Old City, the medieval district which stands as Islamic State’s last bastion in western Mosul.

Local residents also told the website that four members of one family were killed in an airstrike by warplanes from the U.S.-led coalition in Mashahda neighborhood. Three houses were destroyed in the strike, according to the sources.

Late Sunday, Ali al-Karbalai, a lieutenant from the Rapid Response forces, told Anadolu Agency that 32 Iraqi soldiers were killed in 24 hours in suicide attacks by Islamic State militants in al-Shefa and Zanjili districts.

Since late April, Iraqi forces began a push towards the medieval Old City from the northwest, retaking several surrounding districts. At present, only three neighborhoods around the Old City remain under IS control: Zanjili, al-Sihha and al-Shefa.

The Old City was the place where Islamic State’s supreme leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared the establishment of the group’s rule in Iraq and Syria.

The area’s impassable alleyways have made it hard for army and police vehicles to go through, and the existence of at least 200.000 civilians under IS captivity has also slowed down the pace of operations, according to Iraqi generals.

Iraqi government troops, regained control over eastern Mosul in January after three months of fighting.

Some commanders hope the city will be recaptured on June 10th, the day it fell to IS fighters in 2014. They had previously predicted the city to be liberated before the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, which began May 27th.