Iraqi forces carry out an air strike on Daesh militants' positions in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq, June 25, 2017.
Iraqi forces carry out an air strike on Daesh militants' positions in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq, June 25, 2017.

The battle to take full control of and liberate Mosul from Daesh will be over in a few days, after an attempted fight-back by the militants failed, an Iraqi general said on Monday.

"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's (CTS) elite units in Mosul.

"From a military perspective, Daesh is finished," Assadi said. "It lost its fighting spirit and its balance, we are making calls to them to surrender or die."

TRT World's Soraya Lennie is on the frontlines of the battle for Mosul and has this report.

Final days for Daesh in Mosul

The area now under Daesh control in Mosul, once the terrorist organisation's de facto capital in Iraq, is less than two square kilometres, the Iraqi military said.

An attempt by Daesh militants late on Sunday to return to neighbourhoods 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 has been providing air and ground support during the eight-month offensive to take back Iraq's second city from Daesh.

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 Daesh control.

Iraqi troops have already captured the neighbourhood of Al Faruq in the northwestern side of the Old City facing the mosque.

From the west to the east

Iraqi forces took the eastern side of Mosul from Daesh in January, after 100 days of fighting.

In February it launched an attack to take the western side of the city.

Iraqi commanders believe up to 350 militants are dug in among civilians in Mosul's Old City, in crumbling houses and making extensive use of booby traps, suicide bombers and sniper fire to slow down the advance of government troops.

Assadi said Iraqi forces had linked up along Al Faruq, a main street bisecting the Old City, and would start pushing east, toward the river.

"It will be the final episode," he said.

Civilians still trapped

More than 50,000 civilians, about half the Old City's population, remain trapped behind Daesh lines with little food, water or medicines, according to those who escaped.

Aid organisations say Daesh has stopped many from leaving, using them as human shields.

Hundreds of civilians fleeing the Old City have been killed over the past three weeks.

Daesh has carried out sporadic suicide bombings in parts of Mosul using sleeper cells.

It launched a wave of such attacks late on Sunday, trying to take control of a district west of the Old City, Hay al Tanak, and the nearby Yarmuk neighbourhood.

Social media carried posts showing black smoke and reports that it came from houses and cars set alight by the militants. Witnesses said residents had fled the two neighbourhoods.

Assadi said the attempt to take over the neighbourhoods had failed and the militants were now besieged in one or two pockets of Hay al Tanak.

A curfew is also in effect over western Mosul.

After Mosul, Daesh will still be a threat

The fall of Mosul would mark the end of the Iraqi half of the "caliphate". But Daesh remains in control of large areas of Iraq and Syria.

Baghdadi has left the fighting in Mosul to local commanders and was assumed to be hiding in the Iraqi-Syrian border area.

There has been no confirmation yet of Russian reports last week that he was killed in a recent Russian air strike.

In Syria, the insurgents' "capital" Raqqa is nearly encircled by a US-backed, YPG-dominated coalition.

Source: TRT World