Surprise attack sees Iraqi forces advance near key Mosul mosque

The militants were driven from the eastern section of the city earlier this year and are losing ground to Iraqi forces as the weeks pass.

Lashkri added that Iraqi forces have been intensely repelling the counterattack, killing 13 militants, including an emir of Saudi origin.

The Tabqah strike that took place on Tuesday amounted to the third strike within a month in which US -led airstrikes were linked to the death of civilians and or allies despite the Pentagon's investigation regarding two previous strikes which killed numerous civilians located in a Syrian mosque and Iraqi building west of Mosul.

Western Mosul, home to the densely populated Old City and a traditional jihadist bastion, is expected to offer stiffer resistance than the east. "Already, more than 493,000 people have left, leaving nearly everything behind", she said.

A top "mufti" of the Daesh terrorist group was killed by Iraqi police in western Mosul, a high-ranking police official said Friday.

The fact that the Iraqi government is making gains against IS militants illustrates how its intelligence apparatus has improved against IS, says Hisham al-Hashimi, a security analyst in Baghdad who advises the government on Sunni militant groups.

Federal police members ride in the back of a vehicle during clashes between Iraqi forces and Islamic State militants, in Mosul, March 25, 2017.

"The battle to recapture the right bank of Mosul is approaches the end, Hammah said, without specifying a date".

The UN humanitarian office said in February that 217,000 people have fled Mosul since the liberation campaign began in October 2016.

The enemy's use of civilians as human shields is "a despicable tactic, and unfortunate, and heartbreaking", he said.

"Nothing is more important than protecting civilians".

Last month, a suspected coalition airstrike killed hundreds and injured hundreds in Mosul's western side.

  • Leroy Wright