Iraqi troops were clearing up a key neighborhood in Mosul on Friday as a senior commander said the country will declare victory over ISIS in the northern city during the “next few days.”
Lieutenant General Abdul Wahab al-Saadi and Lieutenant Colonel Salam Hussein told The Associated Press their forces were continuing to clear territory in the Old City after retaking the hugely symbolic al-Nuri Mosque on Thursday..
Al-Saadi said his forces were also continuing to push forward from the Old City and on Friday reached within 700 meters of the Tigris River, which roughly divides Mosul into an eastern and western half.
The mosque and its famed 12th century minaret were blown up by ISIS last week — an indication, the Iraqi government said, of the militants’ imminent loss of Mosul.
“In the next few days, we will announce the final victory over ISIS,” Staff Lieutenant General Abdulghani al-Assadi, a senior commander in the elite Counter-Terrorism Service, told Agence France Presse in Mosul.
Iraqi forces launched the grueling battle for Mosul on October 17, advancing to the city and retaking its eastern side before setting their sights on the smaller but more densely populated west.
The extremists are now confined to a small area of the Old City, but its narrow streets and the presence of civilians has made the operation to retake it perilous.
Assadi estimated that there are between 200 and 300 ISIS militants left in the city, most of them foreigners.
Also Friday, the United Nations called on the Iraqi government to intervene to halt “imminent” forced evictions of many people suspected of having ties to the extremist organization from Mosul.
Hundreds of families have received threatening letters laying down a deadline for leaving, mainly under tribal agreements, which amount to “acts of vengeance”, UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville he told a Geneva news briefing.
“We urge the Iraqi government to take action to halt such imminent evictions or any type of collective punishment, and to reinforce the formal justice system to bring perpetrators to justice,” he said.
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