Iraqis Closing In On Symbolic Mosque, Strategic Bridge
By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, March 20, 2017 — Iraqi forces are advancing into the old city of Mosul as they move closer to the Iron Bridge that will take them to the modern city center, Pentagon press operations director Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters today.
“Their line of advance is a little like a triangle,” the spokesman said. “They’re pointed right at the bridge.”
Taking the Iron Bridge will mean Iraqi forces control three of the five bridges that span the Tigris River and connect the old city with Mosul’s modern city center.
Davis said the location of the Iraqis as they approach the old city is symbolically important, because they are closing in on the al Nuri mosque, where in 2014 self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed himself the head of the so-called caliphate stretching from Syria to Iraq.
The Iraqi forward line of troops is in extremely dense urban terrain, which is not easy to get through, Davis pointed out on the 30th day of operations to liberate western Mosul.
“Clearly ISIS has had a lot of time to dig in and place house-borne [homemade bombs], sniper positions, tunnels and other things they can do to make this [advance] very challenging,” he said. “Enemy resistance remains very fierce in the narrow streets of the old part of this city.”
Davis said the counterterrorism service, federal police and emergency response division continue to make small advances to back clear their sections and defend in place in the western half of the city.
As the Iraqi forces close in on the Nuri mosque, about 900 meters or so of fighting remain, Davis said, adding, “Its capture will be a blow for the Islamic State.”