Mosul: The Islamic State jihadists have built huge defences at the entrances to the besieged Mosul city and blocked off roads with military reinforcements, satellite pictures have revealed.
Friday had witnessed the most intense street battles of the three-week-old assault on the IS-controlled city, with explosions and machine gun fire echoing through the streets after sunset, the Mail online reported.
The IS fighters appear to have bulldozed parts of the city to create a “clear line of sight” that likely will help them fight off Iraqi forces.
It comes as dramatic pictures showed how retreating IS fanatics have sparked huge fires and created a toxic smoke cloud the size of New York City by torching oil wells, the Mail said.
Thousands of families are said to be living in a “smoke-filled hell” in Qayyarah, with no access to clean water after the IS set 19 wells ablaze during their retreat from villages.
It comes as an estimated 3,000 Elite Iraqi forces backed by artillery and air strikes have reportedly captured six districts of Mosul from the IS – and raised the Iraqi flag above the city for the first time in two years.
The United Nations warned the IS were prepared to use brutal tactics to defend the city amid reports young boys were being ordered to fight.
Iraqi special forces Captain Malik Hameed said: “The operation is going well, but it’s slow. These kinds of advances are always slow. If we tried to go any faster we would take even more injuries.”
With several oil fields still under the IS control around the de-facto capital, and the potential for thousands of people to flee to the Qayyarah area, there is a risk that many more will be affected, the Mail added.