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MOSUL: Iraqi forces launched an assault on Sunday to retake Mosul’s Old City, the last district still held by the militant Islamic State group three years after the jihadists seized the northern city and declared their “caliphate”.

Military commanders said the assault had begun at dawn after overnight air strikes by the US-led coalition backing Iraqi forces. They said the jihadists were putting up fierce resistance.

The push into Mosul’s Old City — a densely populated warren of narrow alleyways on the western side of Iraq’s second city — marks the culmination of a months-long campaign by Iraqi forces to retake IS’s last major urban stronghold in the country.

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.

The military said counter-terrorism forces and federal police had “launched an attack on the Old City”.

Plumes of smoke rose above the Old City as surrounding Iraqi positions were hit with mortar fire.

On the first floor of a building on a street lined with car repair shops, a commander holding a tablet computer feverishly called in coordinates for an air strike against a suicide car bomb approaching his position.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2017