Daesh Takfiri terrorists are engaged in a “fight to the death” in Mosul’s Old City as advancing Iraqi forces have bottled up the group’s remaining elements in a few patches of the Old City, a military commander says.
Staff Lieutenant General Abdulghani al-Assadi, a senior commander in the Iraq’s elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), announced the news on Tuesday, adding that army troops were just 250 meters from the Tigris River after recapturing the embattled city’s main hospital compound a day earlier.
He further stated that terrorists were increasingly resorting to bomb attacks, including through detonating their explosive vests, speculating that the battle would get even more intense as the militants were pushed closer to the river, which divides the city into the eastern and western parts.
The Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting, and launched the battle in the west on February 19. The Old City, a densely-populated warren of narrow alleyways, is situated in the western part of the city and its full liberation is predicted to be achieved in coming days.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told reporters on Tuesday that the months-long battle to free Mosul had shown that people of Mosul rejected the militants.
“We proved that the people of Mosul are with us and not with terrorism,” Abadi was quoted by Iraq’s state-run media as saying.
He added that he had given instructions to rebuild and stabilize areas of the city already freed from the militant group.
Meanwhile, Iraq’s Rapid Response Division, and the elite Interior Ministry unit, called in precision airstrikes to be carried out just 50 meters away from the government troops. The two sides got so close to one another in some points that in one occasion the terrorists even tossed a hand grenade at the soldiers.
A commander from the division said that some 10,000 civilians remained trapped with little food, water or medicine, in a shrinking rectangular area under the control of a few hundred terrorists. Among the trapped people are civilians, who have been brought from other areas to serve as human shields.
“The presence of civilians has affected the troops’ advance a lot. The directions from the commander-in-chief of the armed forces [Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi] are to advance slowly to preserve civilians’ lives and this is what we are doing,” the officer said on Iraq’s state TV without being named.
He added that the Iraqi forces’ advance had also been slowed down by plenty of improvised explosives planted by Daesh in narrow and maze-like alleys and densely-constructed buildings.
Government authorities are planning a week of jubilation across the country and Premier Abadi is expected to visit Mosul to formally declare victory. The city, located some 400 kilometers (250 miles) north of the capital, Baghdad, fell to Daesh in June 2014.
The full recapture of Mosul, Daesh’s de facto capital in the Arab country, would mark the effective end of the terror group in Iraq.
An estimated 862,000 people have been displaced from Mosul ever since the battle to retake the city began nine months ago. A total of 195,000 civilians have also returned, mainly to the liberated areas of eastern Mosul.