A senior Iraqi general has said that the city of Mosul will be liberated from the Islamic State “within days” as counterterrorism units close in on the group’s few remaining strongholds, three years after the terror organization declared a “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq.
Lieutenant General Abdul Gani al-Assad, told Reuters that “only a small part (of the militants) remain in the city, specifically the Old City,” adding that “from a military perspective, Daesh (Islamic State) is finished. It has lost its fighting spirit and its balance. We are making calls to them to surrender or die.”
“Mosul [will fall] in very few days, God willing,” he added.
Military experts estimate that the Islamic State presence in Mosul’s Old City is as low as 350 jihadists. The area is difficult for soldiers to navigate because of its narrow streets, and the terrorists are taking advantage by “making extensive use of booby traps, suicide bombers, and sniper fire to slow down the advance of Iraqi troops.”
Over the weekend, Iraqi troops captured the neighborhood of al-Faruq in the northwestern side of the Old City facing the historic Grand al-Nuri Mosque, built in the 12th century, which Islamic State terrorists destroyed last week after troops surrounded the building.
“As our Iraqi Security Force partners closed in on the al-Nuri mosque, ISIS destroyed one of Mosul and Iraq’s great treasures,” a senior U.S. commander in Iraq said in a statement. “This is a crime against the people of Mosul and all of Iraq, and is an example of why this brutal organization must be annihilated.”
In May, a senior U.S. military commander in the region, Col. Patrick Work, warned that the final stages of the offensive were likely to be “extremely violent.”
Mosul is the second-largest city in Iraq and was the largest city under Islamic State control and their only major stronghold in Iraq. The Iraqi military has taken the lead in the battle for Mosul, alongside Kurdish Peshmerga units – which remained outside city limits – and the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a coalition of Shiite militias.
However, some observers remain concerned that Iranian-backed Shiite militias could seek to capture the city after its liberation from Islamic State. The Shiite-majority government in Iraq militias such as the PMF to fight alongside the Iraqi military in Mosul and has granted legal exceptions to allow the Shiite-led PMF to cooperate with the official Iraqi military in Mosul.
While not all members of the PMF are Shiites, most are, and the militia’s leadership has ties to Iran and Hezbollah, presenting a possible threat to American interests. PMF fighters have previously threatened to kill U.S. troops who enter the fight against ISIS.
In their attempts to retain control of the city, Islamic State has used chemical weapons targeting both women and children. A report last month also revealed the organization has conducted chemical weapons experiments on their prisoners.
A recent report by United Nations recently found that over 300,000 people in Mosul have been displaced by the conflict, although 94,500 have recently been able to return to their homes in liberated parts of the city.