Iraqi PM reaches out to Mosul civilians as battle nears end
Iraqi forces continued their steady advance against the Islamic State group’s last stronghold in Mosul on Tuesday as the country’s prime minister reached out to the city’s civilian population.
The months-long battle to free Iraq’s second-largest city of IS has shown that the civilians of Mosul reject the militants, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was quoted as saying during a press conference.
“We proved that the people of Mosul are with us and not with terrorism,” al-Abadi said, according to Iraqi state-run media. He added that he has given instructions to rebuild and stabilize areas of the city already freed from the militant group.
The remarks came less than a week after al-Abadi declared an end to the IS’ self-styled caliphate — even though the fighting still continued inside Mosul’s Old City.
Lt. Gen. Abdel Ghani al-Asadi, of Iraq’s special forces, said on Tuesday that Iraqi forces are just 250 metres (yards) from the Tigris River, in the western half of Mosul. The Tigris divides the city roughly into its western and eastern half, which was liberated from IS militants back in January.
IS militants who remain trapped in just a few hundred meters of territory in the Old City are now in a “fight to the death,” al-Asadi said, adding that IS fighters are increasingly resorting to suicide bombings and that he expects the fighting to get even heavier as they are pushed closer to the river.
Iraqi forces marked a significant victory this week when the Rapid Response Division retook Mosul’s main hospital complex on the city’s western side.
The building that once held the city’s best medical facilities now sits devastated by the fight. For weeks, a handful of IS snipers perched in the main hospital’s top floors held back hundreds of Iraqi forces.
Iraqi forces launched the operation to retake Mosul, the country’s second largest city, in October. IS overran Mosul in a matter of days in 2014. At the height of the extremists’ power, they held nearly a third of Iraq.
Iraqi children flee through the rubble as Iraqi forces continue their advance against Islamic State militants in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq, Tuesday.