Scale of civilians fleeing Iraq's Mosul 'staggering' - senior United Nations relief official

Earlier this year, Al Qaeda's leader repeated criticism of the Islamic State's violent attacks, such as beheadings of civilians.

Even if ISIS loses its territory in Iraq, Allawi said, it will not simply go away.

Almost half a million civilians have fled Mosul since the start of the campaign to free the city from Islamic State, new figures show, as the battle becomes bogged down in street-to-street fighting. The talks come as Iraqi troops close in on IS fighters in the city of Mosul.

According to the top US commander in Iraq, the battle for Western Mosul is the most brutal urban combat since World War II.

The operation to retake western Mosul is complicated because of its population density and narrow, congested streets.

Aid shipments also resumed to the Hammam al-Alil camp, southwest of Mosul, the main arrival point for people fleeing the fighting.

The Islamic State, which made territorial gains in Mosul and parts of northern Iraq, has more recently been pushed out of much of the region under pressure from an global coalition that includes the United States.

Lieutenant General Talib Shaghati, said on Tuesday that military forces continue to gain ground against Daesh militants, and are steadily liberating the remaining militant-held areas in western Mosul, Arabic-language and official al-Sabaah (The Morning) daily newspaper reported.

Heavy exchanges of gunfire and mortar rounds could be heard from the neighborhoods facing the old city across the Tigris River that bisects Mosul into a western and eastern sides.

A member of the Iraqi forces takes position by an armored vehicle in the Old City of Mosul on April 16, 2017, during an offensive to recapture the city from Takfiri Daesh militants.

ISIS split from al Qaeda in 2014 and the two groups have since waged an acrimonious battle for recruits, funding and the mantle of global extremism.

Allawi said the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and the head of Al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, are not communicating with each other directly but through intermediaries.

  • Elsie Buchanan