A member of Iraq's elite Counter-Terrorism Service mans a machine gun as another takes cover inside a building during the advance towards the Old City of Mosul on June 19, 2017 as the ongoing offensive continues to retake the last district still held by the Islamic State (IS) group fighters. (Xinhua/AFP Photo)
MOSUL, Iraq, June 19 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi forces continue slow push on Monday into the last Islamic State (IS) stronghold of the old city center in western Mosul amid fierce clashes with the extremist militants, the Iraqi military said.
The regular army, Counter-Terrorism Forces and the Federal Police continued house-to-house battles against IS militants in the narrow alleys at the edges of Mosul's old city center, a security source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
The progress was slowed by the stiff resistance of IS militants and a large number of roadside bombs and booby-trapped buildings, in addition to IS snipers who took positions in the buildings of heavily-populated neighborhoods, the source said.
The troops surrounded the neighborhoods of the old city, leaving extremist militants only two choices: to surrender or be killed, the source added.
During the day, security forces called on trapped civilians in the old city to keep away from the IS positions and urged the civilians to exploit any chance to flee their homes toward the security forces fighting in the nearby buildings and alleys, he said.
Late Sunday night, Iraqi planes dropped about 500,000 leaflets in the small area of the old city, which is roughly 3 square km, informing the remaining residents about the launch of the final push to dislodge IS militants from their neighborhoods, he added.
According to UN reports, some 100,000 civilians still trapped in the IS-held areas in the old city center and the adjacent al-Shifaa neighborhood. The extremist group is using the civilians as human shields.
Iraqi forces, backed by international coalition, launched their final push on Sunday morning to drive out IS militants from al-Shifaa neighborhood and most of the densely-populated old city center in the western side of Mosul, locally known as the right bank of Tigris River.
Also on Monday, an Iraqi journalist and three French reporters were injured in a landmine explosion near their vehicle in Mosul, while covering the advance of the Iraqi forces against the IS militants, according to the security source.
Mosul, 400 km north of Iraq's capital Baghdad, has been under IS control since June 2014, when government forces abandoned their weapons and fled, enabling IS militants to take control of parts of Iraq's northern and western regions.