A military campaign to drive out Islamic State militants from Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, will finish in a few days, ending the 3-year reign of the so-called caliphate in the Iraqi city, the military said.
Lt. Gen. Abdul Ghani al-Assadi said the battle between Iraqi forces and ISIS militants would be over within a couple of days, adding that only a small pocket of militants remains in the city.
“Islamic State is finished,” he said, noting that only 2 sq kms of area is under control of the group. He also argued that ISIS has lost its ”fighting spirit and balance.”
“Mosul will fall soon in very few days, God willing” he vowed.
Only up to 350 militants are estimated to be left in the Old City besieged by the Iraqi military. But their withdrawal from the city is expected to be painful since more than 50,000 civilians are holed up in the city.
Liberating Iraqi cities from ISIS has always been messy. To slow down the advance of the Iraqi army, ISIS militants will possibly plan to use booby traps as they retreat and send its suicide bombers into crowds.
The fighting in Mosul also left tens of thousands of civilians with little food, water or medicine. The UN is on alert for the rising death toll of civilians.
Lise Grande, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, portrayed what is behind the scenes: “There are reports that thousands, maybe even tens of thousands, of people are being held as human shields. Civilians are at extreme, almost unimaginable risk. Hundreds of civilians, including children, are being shot.”
To prevent the bloodbath, Iraqi forces opened “escape routes” last week for hundreds of civilians.
U.S.-backed operation to take back strategically significant Mosul from ISIS started in October 2016. Mosul is considered as ISIS’s de facto capital in Iraq and the biggest prize as it ransacked towns in 2014.
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