Residents carry the body of several people killed during fights between Iraq security forces and Islamic State on the western side of Mosul, Iraq, Friday, March 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
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Perched in bombed-out apartments overlooking west Mosul, Iraqi police snipers have in the last few days advanced to within a few hundred meters of the mosque where Daesh (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his caliphate nearly three years ago.Al-Nouri maybe tantalizingly close, but risky close-quarters fighting in the narrow alleys of Mosul's Old City near the mosque and reports of huge casualties after an airstrike are forcing Iraqi and coalition commanders to change tactics.Already the battle around the Old City had slowed, forcing Iraqi forces and coalition allies to rethink how to push through tight, densely populated streets, where fleeing residents say they are used by militants as cover.That kind of terrain, and the risk of more civilian casualties prompted a rethink of tactics as Iraqi forces push to finish the Mosul campaign.Gen. John Richardson, a commander from the U.S.-led coalition, said Iraqi forces were considering isolating the Old City rather than fighting through it while opening up a second front to split militant ranks and clear the rest of Mosul.Bringing the 9th Army division in from the north would also force Daesh to fight on two fronts and draw fighters away from the Old City, where commanders fear civilian casualties may undermine security and fan the sectarian tensions that helped Daesh thrive.
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