Iraqi and ISIS snipers face off at a historic mosque in Mosul

Apr 19, 2017, 01:41
Iraqi and ISIS snipers face off at a historic mosque in Mosul

But hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians are still trapped in the ISIS-held parts of the city which could turn into the worst humanitarian "catastrophe" in the war against the militants, the United Nations warned on Tuesday. The talks come as Iraqi troops close in on IS fighters in the city of Mosul.

A member of the Iraqi forces takes position by an armored vehicle in the Old City of Mosul on April 16, 2017, during an offensive to recapture the city from Takfiri Daesh militants.

In February, Iraqi ground forces - backed by a USA -led air coalition - began fresh operations aimed at ousting ISIL from western Mosul, the terrorist group's last stronghold in northern Iraq.

The militants are now surrounded in the northwestern quarter including the historic Old City, using booby traps, sniper and mortar fire against the assailants.

"The sheer volume of civilians still fleeing Mosul city is staggering", said Lise Grande, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq.

According to the top US commander in Iraq, the battle for Western Mosul is the most brutal urban combat since World War II.

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The Islamic State (ISIS) radical group is seeking a possible alliance with al-Qaeda after suffering heavy losses, Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi said on Monday.

Some 20,000 people have escaped from Mosul in the past four days, fewer than before due to the lack of transport, the UNHCR said in a report.

They were some of the around 400,000 people still in western Mosul where military forces are trying to dislodge the militants from the Old City.

The Islamic State, which made territorial gains in Mosul and parts of northern Iraq, has more recently been pushed out of much of the region under pressure from an worldwide coalition that includes the United States.

"I don't know exactly when, but there are discussions and dialogues between messengers", he said, adding that it's not clear how the two groups will work together.

While officials are claiming some small gains near the ancient al-Nuri Mosque, the situation is largely unchanged in the past month, with intense, door-to-door fighting providing little opportunity for noticeable territory to change hands, and weeks often going by on the same couple of city blocks.