Middle East

Battle for Mosul: The story so far

Smoke rising above al-Nuri mosque Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mosul's ancient al-Nuri mosque was destroyed on 21 June.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians have fled the northern Iraqi city of Mosul as government security forces continue their military offensive to reclaim the city from so-called Islamic State (IS).

Iraqi army forces have retaken western Mosul and encircled IS fighters in the Old City, a narrow maze of alleyways and location of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri.

The mosque was destroyed on 21 June, blown up by IS according to Iraqi forces, to slow the advance of pro-government troops. IS claimed the mosque was destroyed in a US air raid.

The ancient mosque was where in July 2014 IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi demanded allegiance, in his first and only public appearance, following the declaration days earlier of a "caliphate".

Thousands of Iraqi security forces, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, Sunni Arab tribesmen and Shia militiamen, assisted by US-led coalition warplanes and military advisers, are involved in the Mosul offensive, which was launched on 17 October 2016.

The government announced the full "liberation" of eastern Mosul in January 2017.

Territorial control: February to May 2017

More than 580,000 civilians have fled the city since October 2016, according to the Iraqi government.

Most have taken refuge in nearby camps and reception centres. Others have gone to stay with relatives and friends.

Following the recapture of eastern Mosul in January, there was deep concern for thousands of people remaining in the east of the city, with food supplies reported to be very low and clean drinking water in short supply.

The UN said in late January that almost half of all the casualties in Mosul were civilians. At least 2,014 have been killed and 1,516 injured across Nineveh province since October 2016.

Lt Gen Stephen Townsend, the coalition's task force commander, described the recapture of eastern Mosul as a "monumental achievement" for the Iraqi people, but warned there was "still a long way to go" before IS was eliminated from Iraq.

It took from mid-October until 8 January 2017 for Iraqi forces to advance as far as the River Tigris and another two weeks to gain full control of the eastern side of Mosul.

Territorial loss

Contradictory reports make it difficult to track the progress of the government offensive in Mosul on the ground.

The maps shown here are based on expert analysis from two different sources, the Institute for the Study of War and IHS Conflict Monitor.

According to analysis by IHS Conflict Monitor, IS fighters lost territory since the regional offensive began. However, gains slowed when Iraqi government forces met stiff resistance in the city of Mosul.

Satellite images have revealed extensive damage to Mosul's infrastructure, buildings and archaeological sites - in particular to the city's airport and bridges.

Mosul airport

Imagery, released by US geopolitical intelligence company Stratfor in October 2016, showed how IS fighters sabotaged much of the city's airport, with wide trenches carved into it and rubble placed along their lengths.

The images also show how coalition airstrikes, aimed at destroying key IS positions and assets, caused damage to Mosul's sugar factory - a facility kept in action by the militants.

Imagery also revealed how the jihadists constructed multiple barricades across key routes into the city, including north of the airport.

The barriers have been made out of concrete blocks and other rubble, Stratfor's analysis says, possibly from the walls of destroyed buildings.

Mosul's bridges

All bridges linking the east and west of the city, across the Tigris river, were also destroyed.

In the centre of the city, four of the five main bridges were put out of action in October and November by coalition air strikes, with the aim of limiting the jihadists' ability to resupply or reinforce their positions in the east.

The Old Bridge - the only remaining route open to vehicles in the centre of the city - was disabled in a US-led coalition air strike at the end of December.

Iraqi forces have since recaptured two of the bridges, the Fourth bridge and al-Hurriya, also known as the al-Jamhuriya. They will either have to repair them or install floating bridges to reconnect east and west Mosul.

Stratfor images show how the bridges were damaged.

Al-Hurriya Bridge

Image copyright AP

A US air strike damaged the al-Hurriya Bridge at the eastern end last October, but IS then set up a barrier on the western side, shown below.

Fourth Bridge

In November 2016, a US air strike damaged the bridge, but more recently it was rendered impassable by further damage, shown below.

Humanitarian crisis

The Iraqi authorities say 419,000 civilians have been displaced from western Mosul since February alone.

More than 320,000 people are now living in camps or other emergency sites around Mosul.

The UN says many of those who have fled Mosul and ended up in the camps have witnessed the deaths of relatives, friends and neighbours.

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