WORLD IS cornered as Iraqis target last jihadists
TWO hooded gunmen have opened fire on a crowd outside a mosque in France, injuring several and sparking a major police operation.
Authorities placed the scene, in the city of Avignon in the country’s south, in lockdown and launched a manhunt for the attackers, who fled.
Witnesses say the men, wearing hoods, arrived at Arrahma mosque in a Renault Clio around 10.30pm local time ( 6.30am AEST), leapt out and began firing at random.
One was armed with a handgun and the other with a rifle, local newspaper La Provence reports.
According to La Provence, police have dismissed the possibility it was a terrorist attack. It quoted a magistrate as saying the likely motive was “a settling of accounts or a quarrel between young people”. IRAQI forces were battling the last few hundred Islamic State jihadists in Mosul’s historic centre yesterday as they pressed the final stages of an assault to drive the terrorists from the city.
More than eight months since the operation to retake Mosul was launched, IS has gone from fully controlling the city to holding a few neighbourhoods on its western side.
“The number is ... more or less 300 fighters, most of them of European nationalities, Arabs of other nationalities or of Asian origin,” Staff Brigadier General Nabil alFatlawi, a commander in the elite Counter- Terrorism Service ( CTS), said.
“We are not able to specify when the battles will end because of the narrow type of streets in the Old City and also the presence of civilian detainees,” Brig Fatlawi said, referring to residents being used as human shields by IS. “But I can say within days.”
Earlier in the day, Iraq’s Joint Operations Command announced CTS forces had recaptured the Makawi area of the Old City, in a further blow at the heart of the jihadists’ cross- border “caliphate”.
Iraqi forces have been closing in on the Old City for months, but its narrow streets and closely spaced buildings combined with a large civilian population made for an extremely difficult fight. Security forces recaptured a series of nearby districts, cornering the IS fighters, and launched an assault inside the Old City on June 18.
They have since made significant progress. On Sunday, officers announced the recapture of a hospital and its surroundings north of the Old City, removing a nearby pocket of IS resistance.
On Friday, Iraqi forces retook the remains of the Grand Mosque of al- Nuri in their greatest symbolic victory since the battle began.
IS chief Abu Bakr alBaghdadi gave a triumphal sermon at the mosque after the jihadists captured Mosul in 2014.
The mosque thus became a symbol of Baghdadi’s rule and IS’s “caliphate”.
The jihadists made sure that the Nuri mosque was not captured intact, blowing it up as Iraqi forces closed in.