By Arab News
Iraqi commanders said Saturday their forces are “tens of meters” away from defeating Daesh in Mosul, a day after a major counterattack by the militants.
The Joint Operations Command said: “Our units are still continuing to advance… Not much is left before our forces reach the Tigris River.”
It issued a statement saying that 35 Daesh members were killed and six captured when they tried to escape “the advance of our forces” in Mosul’s Old City.
Daesh members, who have vowed to “fight to the death,” hold less than 1 square kilometer of territory, but are using civilians as human shields, making it nearly impossible for US-led warplanes to flush them out.
A group of terrorists tried to escape across the river from west Mosul where they hold a dwindling pocket of territory, but were killed by Iraqi forces, a senior commander said.
“Some of them tried to cross to… the far bank (of the river), but we have forces there,” said Staff Lt. Gen. Abdulghani Al-Assadi, a senior commander in Iraq’s elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS).
The terrorists wanted to go back, but security forces “fired on them and killed them,” he said, without specifying how many died.
“We are seeing now the last meters and then final victory will be announced,” a presenter said, citing correspondents embedded with security forces. “It’s a matter of hours,” she added.
A US general said Iraqi authorities will imminently announce a final victory. “An announcement is imminent,” Baghdad-based Brig. Gen. Robert Sofge said. “I don’t want to speculate if it’s today (Saturday) or tomorrow , but I think it’s going to be very soon,” he added.
Dozens of Iraqi soldiers celebrated amid the rubble on the banks of the Tigris without waiting for a formal victory declaration, some dancing to music blaring out from a truck and firing machine guns into the air.
Baghdad operations commander Maj. Gen. Jalil Al-Rubaie said in a statement that action will be taken against those who fired shots in the air during celebrations. Al-Rubaie said that shooters will be brought to justice.
The mood was less festive, however, among some of the nearly 1 million Mosul residents, many of whom are living in camps outside the city with little respite from the blazing summer heat.
“If there is no rebuilding and people don’t return to their homes and regain their belongings, what is the meaning of liberation?” Mohammed Haji Ahmed, 43, a clothing trader, said in the Hassan Sham camp to the east of Mosul.
Meanwhile, Iraq’s regional Kurdish leader said this week that the government in Baghdad had failed to prepare a post-battle political, security and governance plan.