Three years after they were ousted from Mosul, Iraqi forces say the battle to retake the city from Daesh has entered its final stages.
Three years after Daesh routed them in Mosul, Iraqi forces say the battle to oust the terrorist group from the city is in its final stages.
Meanwhile, thousands of people are fleeing the fighting while others remain trapped inside the battle zone. The United Nations says Daesh killed more than 160 civilians last week.
The fall of Mosul was the worst defeat that Iraqi forces suffered in the war against Daesh, and regaining it would cap a major turnaround for security forces that broke and ran despite outnumbering the terror group who attacked the second city in 2014.
"Of course, we celebrate the successes of the military" three years after the city's fall, said Staff Lieutenant General Abdulghani al-Assadi, a senior commander in Iraq's elite Counter-Terrorism Service, which has spearheaded the battle.
TRT World's Rahul Radhakrishnan has more.
A long and arduous battle
The Iraqi security forces have since recaptured much of the territory seized by Daesh, including three cities, and have retaken most of Mosul, the fourth and largest.
In Mosul, "nothing remains for Daesh except three or four neighbourhoods in which it is surrounded," Assadi said.
When Daesh seized Mosul, "the units that were present were in fact lacking some preparations and some equipment... and therefore the fall (of the city) happened quickly," he said.
"Now the units are well prepared and their relationship with the citizen – and this is a very important point – is a good relationship and the citizen cooperates with the units," Assadi said.
"Success in the Mosul operation will highlight how far the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) have come since their collapse in June 2014," said Patrick Martin, Iraq analyst at the Institute for the Study of War.
But Martin noted that "recapturing terrain in Mosul should not obscure the fact that the ISF remains incomplete and flawed," including that "they still have insufficient manpower to clear and hold the country."
Pushing the militants back has taken a massive toll on Iraq: years of battles have left thousands dead and hundreds of thousands displaced, and laid waste to swathes of the country, while many suffered under brutal rule.
When Daesh seized Mosul on June 10, 2014 and drove south toward the federal capital, the atmosphere was not one of celebration, but rather fear.
"Three years ago, around this time, Daesh... was moving rapidly towards Baghdad," said Brett McGurk, the US envoy to the international coalition against Daesh.
Iraqi forces "were not prepared for a threat like that" posed by Daesh in 2014, said coalition spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon.
At that time, recovery "looked almost impossible, and many were saying, 'Well, this is the end of Iraq,'" McGurk said.
A combination of factors ultimately stopped Daesh short of Baghdad, and they were not able to launch a large-scale conventional attack on the capital.