Wednesday, 20 February, 2019

ISIS extremists losing more ground in Iraq's Mosul

Melinda Barton | 29 June, 2017, 09:06

Iraqi forces battled deep into the devastated historical heart of Mosul and closed in fast on the last pockets of jihadists Sunday, eight months into an epic battle to retake the city.

Officials from the anti-IS alliance said the destruction of the ancient site signals the group's imminent defeat in Mosul, with Prime Minister al-Abadi describing the shock move as an "official declaration of defeat".

Social media carried posts showing black smoke and reports that it came from houses and cars set alight by the fighters. Some of the residents who had fled the fighting returned to areas where the curfew was partially lifted, witnesses said.

He said 15 to 20 jihadist fighters were also killed in the battle. As it buzzes skyward, officers gather on a couch to inspect enemy defences on the transmitted video feed.Soldiers, who dash through alleys blocked up precariously with stones and furniture, said snipers and suicide bombers remained the primary resistance from Islamic State.

The fall of Mosul would essentially end the Iraqi half of the IS "caliphate" as a quasi-state structure.

Since the Iraqis liberated eastern Mosul at the beginning of the year, 191,000 Moslawis have come back to their homes; 350,000 children have returned to school, where 320 out of 400 schools have reopened; and four of nine water treatment plants are providing water to almost 1 million people with more than 3.5 million liters trucked in every day. "It lost its fighting spirit and its balance, we are making calls to them to surrender or die".

'Fighting is very intense in the Old City and civilians are at extreme, nearly unimaginable risk, ' said Lise Grande, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, in a statement.

An estimated 862,000 people have been displaced from Mosul ever since the battle to retake the city began nine months ago.

Members of the Iraqi army are photographed with an ISIS flag, claimed after fighting with militants in western Mosul, Iraq June 26, 2017.

"Only a small part [of the militants] remains in the city, specifically the Old City", he told Reuters.

Should the Islamic State's control over the city of Mosul fall, it would reportedly mark the collapse of the Iraqi half of the ISIS "caliphate". About one sq km (0.4 sq mile) remained under its control, according to Iraqi state TV.

Iraq captured east Mosul in late January.

Assisted by airstrikes from the US-led coalition, the SDF has been slowly advancing against ISIS in Raqqa since launching its offensive in early June after encircling the city.

The Iraqi government once hoped to take Mosul by the end of 2016, but fighting has dragged on as militants have reinforced positions in civilian areas, effectively using residents as human shields.

In Mosul, 980 militants had been killed and more than 6,000 wounded in the push to oust ISIS, the Pentagon reported a month ago.