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Iraqi forces surround Old City in latest attempt to drive IS out of Mosul

Iraqi forces are moving to surround Mosul's Old City, a week after launching a fresh push to drive Islamic State militants from areas they still hold.

Iraqi special forces Lt Gen Sami al-Arathi said battle plans had changed and a northern advance was launched last week after Iraqi forces struggled to push into the Old City from the south.

As Iraqi army and federal police forces push from the north, the country's special forces are moving towards the Old City through Mosul's western industrial neighbourhoods.

"The multi-axis advance... has presented the enemy with more dilemmas than they can react to," US-led coalition spokesman John Dorrian said.

He added that over the past week, Iraqi forces had retaken more than 12 square miles of terrain from IS.

Hundreds of civilians could be seen fleeing the fighting on Thursday.

A handful of injured civilians were evacuated from the front line, and a woman who appeared to have lost both her legs was rushed away in an armoured vehicle.

The operation to retake Mosul began in October, and the eastern half of the city was retaken earlier this year.

The battle for the more densely-populated western half, including the Old City, has been slower.

Mosul fell to IS nearly three years ago when the militant group blitzed into Iraq from neighbouring Syria and took nearly a third of the country under its control. Today a fraction of western Mosul is the last significant urban terrain IS holds in Iraq.

The UN estimates some 350,000 people remain trapped in IS-held parts of western Mosul. Clashes over the past week have forced more than 11,000 civilians to flee.

Mr Dorrian said while IS defences in Mosul are "degraded" each day, it is still impossible to predict how much longer the operation will take.

AP

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