June 1, 2017 / 10:51 AM / 2 months ago

Fleeing civilians wounded by Islamic State mortar fire in Mosul

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Displaced Iraqi people carry their belongings as they flee from western Mosul, Iraq May 31, 2017.Alkis Konstantinidis

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - About a dozen civilians were wounded on Thursday by Islamic State mortar shells as they tried to escape from the Zanjili district held by the militants in Mosul, Iraqi police said.

Zanjili is part of the enclave that remains in the hands of Islamic State in the northern Iraqi city, alongside the Old City centre and the Medical City hospitals complex.

U.S.-backed government forces began operations on May 27 to capture the enclave, regularly dropping leaflets telling families to flee.

The casualties from Zanjili were taken to a field clinic, said a police officer. They were part of the first group of civilians who have managed to escape.

Al-Hadba minaret at the Grand Mosque is seen through a building window in the old city of Mosul, Iraq June 1, 2017.Alaa Al-Marjani

Several dozen other civilians managed to reach government-held lines unhurt, using the same exit route, a police officer told Reuters.

The militants ordered dozens of families living in Zanjili district to move into the Old City to prevent them escaping towards the Iraqi forces, a resident told Reuters on Wednesday.

A displaced Iraqi boy carries a clock as he flees from western Mosul, Iraq.Alkis Konstantinidis

The Mosul offensive, now in its eighth month, has taken much longer than expected, with Iraqi government advances slowed by the need to avoid civilian casualties.

The fall of the city would, in effect, mark the end of the Iraqi half of the ''caliphate'' declared in 2014 over parts of Iraq and Syria by Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in speech from a historic mosque in Mosul's old city.

In Syria, Kurdish forces backed by U.S.-air strikes are besieging Islamic State forces in the city of Raqqa, the militants' de facto capital in that country.

Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; Writing by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Ralph Boulton

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