(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
MOSUL, Iraq - Islamic State militants captured an Iraqi police colonel and eight other officers on Monday after they ran out of ammunition during a skirmish in the battle for western Mosul, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said.
The official, who declined to be identified, said the incident took place as government forces closed in on Islamic State fighters in the Old City and other districts, in an offensive intended to crush the hard-line group in what was once the de facto capital of their self-proclaimed Islamic caliphate.
A media officer for the Interior Ministry's Rapid Response units, Lieutenant Colonel Abdel Amir al-Mohammedawi, denied that any police officers had been captured when asked for comment.
But the Interior Ministry official told Reuters the nine men were seized in the early hours of Monday in the Bab Jadid district.
Federal police sources later said the officers had been killed and Iraqi forces were trying to recover the bodies.
Islamic State has a record of torturing and mutilating captives - civilian and military - so the incident will weigh heavily of the minds of the government troops in the street-by-street fighting for western Mosul, now in its second month.
In the capital, Baghdad, a car bomb killed at least 23 people and wounded more than 45 in a mainly Shi'ite southern district, police and medical sources said.
The blast occurred on a busy commercial street in the Amil neighborhood, the sources said. There was no claim of responsibility, but Islamic State has carried out similar attacks in Baghdad and other cities as their hold on Mosul weakens.
Federal Police and Rapid Response units backed by helicopter gunships pressed their cautious advance on the al-Nuri Mosque in western Mosul's Old City on Monday.
The battle for Iraq's second city is expected to last several more weeks. The offensive was launched in October with support from U.S. artillery, air strikes and advisers, and the eastern side of the city on the Tigris river was secured in December.
The campaign for the western side is harder. The area is more densely populated, the streets are narrower and the houses closely packed together.