Mosul residents have been helping Iraqi forces find "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) hideouts in the city's residential neighbourhoods and public facilities, military and local officials tell Diyaruna.
During its occupation of the Ninawa province city, the group has commandeered private homes and government buildings, using them as military posts, as cover from airstrikes and to impede the progress of the liberating forces, they said.
" The terrorists did not hesitate to do anything to disrupt the advance of our troops and put obstacles in front of their progress ," Federal Police Chief Lt. Gen. Raed Shaker Jawdat told Diyaruna.
"One of their methods was exploiting citizens' homes, government buildings and service facilities to avoid aerial bombardment and infantry fire by using them as fortresses and hideouts to store weapons and manufacture car bombs and attacks our forces," he said.
"This shows the extent of their disregard for the lives of innocent people, who have been exposed to danger, and it exposes the falsity of who they are, as they are only cowards, ruthless and inhumane," Jawdat said.
Civilian co-operation has helped the liberating forces overcome that challenge and defeat the group in several Mosul neighbourhoods on the left bank of the Tigris, he said.
Targeting ISIL, preserving homes
"With each advance, citizens provided us with a great deal of information about the secret and camouflaged strongholds of terrorists, which are usually homes, schools, hospitals, service projects, government buildings or mosques," Jawdat said.
"After receiving this information, our troops pursue and target the enemy," he said, forcing ISIL fighters into the open so the buildings and infrastructure that have served as their hiding places will not be destroyed in airstrikes.
"Thanks to this co-operation, we were able to secure and protect several buildings and infrastructure projects on Mosul's left bank," he said.
These include the main power station and the grain mills complex, he said, adding that Iraqi forces also destroyed ISIL posts such as its "Caliphate Soldiers Headquarters" in al-Mithaq neighbourhood.
Since the second phase of the battle to liberate Mosul neighbourhoods on the left bank of the Tigris began in late December, Jawdat said, "we killed 1,920 terrorists, including 27 of the top leaders of the terrorist organisation, and destroyed 63 explosives-laden vehicles driven by suicide bombers, in addition to 78 military vehicles".
"Most of the left bank neighbourhoods, such as Somar, Wehda, Aden, al-Intisar, al-Shaimaa and al-Mithaq, came under the full control of our forces, comprising a total area of about 64 square kilometres," he said.
Residents support security forces
"The standing of Mosul residents around their military forces foiled all attempts by militants to take advantage of the complex conditions of the liberation battle," said Ninawa provincial council deputy chairman Noureddine Kabalan.
"With the start of the battle, the enemy tried to barricade itself, using residents [as human shields], and took refuge in civilian buildings," he told Diyaruna.
The group used these buildings as bases from which to conduct its offensive operations, in order to be spared Iraqi and coalition shelling and strikes, he said.
"But the cohesion of the people with their liberating forces and their provision of intelligence reports on the whereabouts of terrorists and their movements forced the enemy to change its hideouts," he said.
ISIL fighters have been hunted down via "unique ground and air operations in which surveillance and reconnaissance techniques were used, in addition to controlled and bomber aircraft", Kabalan said.
The "experience and drive" of the liberating forces also have contributed to the failure of ISIL's plan to exploit the city's density of population and civilian buildings, for its own gain, he said.
Civilian safety comes first
The delay in liberating Mosul is not a sign of ISIL's strength, but demonstrates the security forces' priority, which is preserving the safety of civilians, Ninawa provincial council member Seydou Hussein al-Tatani told Diyaruna.
Their desire to preserve civilian lives and the city's infrastructure is what hinders a quick resolution of the battle, he said.
"The militants are always trying to complicate the fight, through taking cover in homes, schools and public buildings, as they know that our troops will not target them with heavy weapons, and that they will not be bombed by international coalition aircraft seeking to avoid the fall innocent victims," he said.
"Despite this dirty method by the terrorists, our forces are achieving, with the help of residents, good progress in the field, and are extracting more neighbourhoods and government installations from their grip," he added.