A major Islamic State group counterattack Friday along the northern edge of Mosul’s Old City neighbourhood has pushed Iraqi Army forces back some 75 metres and is threatening recent gains in other Old City fronts, an Iraqi military officer said.
The officer said the attack was launched just after noon Friday and estimated it was carried out by 50 to 100 IS fighters. A doctor at a medic station said he received more than a dozen wounded Iraqi soldiers.
Both men spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Iraqi security forces have retaken almost all of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, from IS militants who overran it in 2014.
In late June, IS counterattacks on the western edge of Mosul, neighbourhoods retaken months earlier, stalled the push by Iraqi forces to go deeper into the Old City as they forced a reallocation of Iraqi ground forces, coalition surveillance and air support.
Unlike the Friday attack, the late June counterattack was launched from outside Mosul, most likely from Tal Afar, an IS-held town some 60km west of Mosul.
The counterattacks underscore the extremist group’s resilience in Iraq, despite significant territorial losses and months of heavy fighting with Iraqi forces backed by US air power.
The pockets of IS-held Mosul now measure less than a square kilometre.
Also on Friday, The UN’s migration agency suspended operations in two camps, the Qayara air strip emergency site and the Haj Ali camp, near Mosul hosting nearly 80,000 displaced Iraqis due to sporadic violence and exchange of gunfire.
Humanitarian groups have repeatedly suspended operations in and around Mosul due to security concerns since the fight to retake the city from IS began last October.
In April, the United Nations suspended operations in the same area due to security threats along the road south of Mosul’s western half.
In February the UN suspended operations in eastern Mosul weeks after the area was declared fully liberated as IS attacks continued to inflict heavy civilian casualties.
In both instances the UN resumed operations within a matter of days.