The battle to take full control of Mosul from ISIS will be over in a few days, a general said Monday as Iraqi forces searched neighborhoods of west Mosul they retook weeks ago after a surprise jihadist attack on their rear that left several dead.
“Only a small part remains in the city, specifically the Old City,” said Lieutenant General Abdul Ghani al-Assadi, commander of the Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) elite units in Mosul.
“From a military perspective, ISIS is finished,” Assadi said. “It lost its fighting spirit and its balance, we are making calls to them to surrender or die.”
The area now under ISIS control in Mosul, once the militant group’s de facto capital in Iraq, is less than 2 sq kms, the Iraqi military said.
An attempt by ISIS militants late on Sunday to return to neighborhoods outside the Old City failed, Assadi said, adding the city would fall “in very few days, God willing”.
The CTS is leading the fight in the densely populated maze of narrow alleyways of the historic Old City which lies by the western bank of the Tigris river.
A US-led international coalition is providing air and ground support in the eight-month-old offensive.
The militants last week destroyed the historic Grand al-Nuri Mosque and its leaning minaret from which their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate spanning parts of Iraq and Syria three years ago. The mosque’s grounds remain under the militants’ control.
Iraqi troops captured the neighborhood of al-Faruq in the northwestern side of the Old City facing the mosque, the military said on Monday.
A top commander in the CTS said Sunday’s attackers had infiltrated the area by blending in with returning displaced civilians.
“The group came with the displaced and settled in the Tanak district. They regrouped and launched counter-attacks,” Staff Lieutenant General Abdulwahab al-Saadi told AFP.
“Yarmuk is being searched house to house,” he said, adding that two groups of ISIS attackers were still believed to be in the area, which lies on the western edge of the city.
A CTS medic said the attack had caused several victims but he could not say how many.
He said 15 to 20 terrorists were also killed in the battle.
The east bank of Mosul was retaken in January and a push to wrest back the western side was launched in mid-February.