BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraqi forces on Monday resumed searches in western neighborhoods of the city of Mosul, which they restored weeks ago, after a surprise attack by an armed group on Sunday night, signaling the difficulty of the ongoing battle to restore the country’s second largest city. The attack, which was carried out by an al-Qaeda organization, raised panic among residents who returned to the Yarmouk and al-Tank neighborhoods of western Mosul. “The group came out with the displaced and settled in al-Tanak district,” said the head of the counter-terrorism forces, Major General Abdulwahab al-Saadi. They re-assembled and launched counter-attacks. “
“After the exposure last night (Sunday), our troops arrived at the scene and repelled the attack. Now there is nothing left, only two groups surrounded, and Yarmouk is searched from house to house. We will conduct inspections on the entire right side (west of Mosul). “ A medical source in the anti-terrorism forces said that the attack resulted in the fall of “martyrs killed by the call.”
He pointed out that between 15 to 20 elements of the organization of the Islamic state were killed during clashes with security forces. The attempt comes as Iraqi forces continue their military operations deep into the historic and devastated Old City of Mosul, and the last of the organization’s sites has been tightened eight months after the start of the largest military operation in the country.
The forces returned east of Mosul last January, and launched a month after the restoration of the western part of the city. Hundreds of al-Qaeda members have been killed since the operation began, and hundreds of civilians have been killed. More than 800,000 people have been forced to flee their homes, and many remain in overcrowded camps.
While the details of the counter-attack were not yet clear, Sunday’s attack was described as a tactical move initiated by “sleeper cells” in western Mosul to relieve pressure from the old town, where the radical group defended its last positions. “The sleeper cells launched a surprise attack against the security forces in an attempt to unplug the elements in the old city,” a local official said on condition of anonymity. He pointed out that «cleansing operations are underway on the pockets of the remaining Daash».
An Iraqi military commander said the battle to regain full control of the city of Mosul from a sympathetic organization would end within days and that the attempt to resist militants failed. “There is only a little left of the city, specifically the old city,” said Abdul Ghani al-Asadi, commander of the anti-terrorism apparatus in Mosul.
“In terms of military assessment, he is over. The spirit of fighting has lost its balance and we are calling them to give up or go to death. “ The Iraqi army says the area, still under Daed’s control in Mosul, the organization’s stronghold in Iraq, is less than two square kilometers. Al-Asadi said the organizers’ attempt late on Sunday to return to the neighborhoods outside the old city had failed, adding that the city would be restored within a few days.
The anti-terrorism apparatus is leading the battle in the narrow, densely packed alleys of the ancient city on the west bank of the Tigris River.