French journalist dies in Iraq after being wounded in Mosul

Iraq's army said it encircled Islamic State's stronghold in the Old City of Mosul on Tuesday after taking over an area to the north of the territory.

The loss of Mosul would mark the effective end of the Iraqi portion of the cross-border "caliphate" IS declared in the summer of 2014 after seizing large parts of Iraq and neighbouring Syria.

Shakir Jaudat, chief of the Iraqi Federal Police, told Sputnik Arabic that "about 60,000 families fled the city via the humanitarian corridors established by Iraqi forces since the beginning of the Mosul liberation operation on February 19".

The push into Mosul's historic heart on the west bank of the Tigris River marks the culmination of a months-long campaign by Iraqi forces to retake the terrorist group's last major urban stronghold in the country.

Iraqi forces, backed by global coalition, launched their final push on Sunday morning to drive out IS militants from al-Shifaa neighborhood and most of the densely-populated old city center in the western side of Mosul, locally known as the right bank of Tigris River.

It is not clear how many civilians have been killed in the operation.

The various Iraqi forces pushing into the Old City made modest gains, as IS fighters rained mortar fire on their positions and offered stiff resistance.

An Iraqi journalist was killed and three French reporters were wounded after a mine exploded in Mosul, where they were covering an advance by Iraqi forces against Islamic State militants, France 2 television and a diplomatic source said on Monday.

US-backed Iraqi troops have been battling to capture the city for nine months.

The loudspeakers blared messages to ISIS fighters, telling them: "You have only this choice: surrender or die".

The leaflets urged civilians to "stay away from open places and... exploit any opportunity that arises during the fighting" to escape. Only a few hundred yards (metres) from the heaviest fighting, small groups of civilians gathered.

"UNICEF is extremely concerned about children who are being injured and killed in the escalating violence". A total of 195,000 civilians have also returned, mainly to the liberated areas of eastern Mosul.

  • Leroy Wright