MOSUL, Iraq (AP) – Pm Haider al-Abadi congratulated Iraqi troops Sunday within the roads of Mosul for driving Islamic Condition militants from the majority of the city. But airstrikes and sniper fire ongoing among the revelry, and also the extremists stubbornly held small patches of ground west from the Tigris River.
Within the nearly nine-month campaign, Iraqi forces – supported by airstrikes in the U.S.-brought coalition – reduced the IS hang on Iraq’s second-largest city to under a square kilometer (under miles) of territory.
Still, al-Abadi and Iraqi commanders stopped short Sunday of declaring an outright victory from the extremists, who’ve occupied Mosul for 3 years. Losing Mosul will be a major defeat for that Islamic Condition, that has endured major setbacks previously year.
“We are glad to see normal life return for the citizens,” al-Abadi said, according to a statement from his office. “This is the result of the sacrifices of the (country’s) heroic fighters.”
Outfitted inside a black military uniform, the pm met field commanders, kissed babies and toured a reopened market in western Mosul. At some point, he briefly draped an Iraqi flag on his shoulders.
A couple of kilometers away, special forces commanders rose over mounds of boulders around the fringe of Mosul’s Old City to plant an Iraqi flag around the western bank from the Tigris, marking days of hard-fought against gains in the middle of the congested district.
All of a sudden, two shots from your IS sniper rang out, delivering the boys scrambling for canopy. The flag was retrieved and grown farther upriver behind a wall that protected it from the cluster of IS-held structures nearby.
“We’ve been fighting this terrorist group for 3 1/2 years now,” said Lt. Gen. Abdul Wahab al-Saadi of the special forces. “Now we are in Mosul, the east part was liberated, and there’s only a small part left in the west.”
Al-Saadi emphasized that regardless of the flag-raising, the operation to obvious Mosul from the militants was ongoing. Behind him, several soldiers and native journalists recording the scene sang a conventional Iraqi victory ballad.
Lt. Gen. Jassim Nizal from the army’s ninth Division stated his forces achieved “victory” within their sector, following a similar announcement each day earlier through the militarized Federal Police.
Soldiers danced atop tanks to loyal music even while airstrikes sent up plumes of smoke nearby.
However the backdrop towards the moments of revelry would be a grinding conflict and prevalent devastation.
Within the Old City – the place to find structures that go as far back centuries – the road created by Iraqi forces leveled homes, shattered priceless architecture and littered the narrow alleys with corpses decomposing within the summer time heat.
Under an hour or so following the flag-raising, special forces Lt. Col. Muhanad al-Timimi was told that a couple of his men were shot by an IS sniper, and one of these passed away.
“He was one of our best,” al-Timimi said. “He just got married six months ago.”
Blocks in the army celebrations, a type of weary civilians walked from the Old City, beyond the shells of destroyed apartment blocks lining roads cratered by airstrikes.
Heba Walid held her sister-in-law’s baby, that was born into war. The mother and father from the 6-month-old, together with 15 other family people, were wiped out recently when an airstrike hit their house. When Walid ran from formula, she given the infant a paste of crushed biscuits combined with water.
Inside IS-held territory, the extremists are utilizing human shields, suicide bombers and snipers inside a battle to the dying which has slowed recent Iraqi gains to some crawl.
Islamic Condition militants grabbed Mosul within the summer time of 2014 once they taken across northern and central Iraq. That summer time, the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, made an appearance at Mosul’s al-Nuri Mosque and declared a caliphate on territory it grabbed in Iraq and Syria.
Iraq launched the operation to retake Mosul in October. The fierce fight has wiped out thousands and displaced greater than 897,000 people.
Recently, as Iraqi troops closed in around the Old City, the militants destroyed the al-Nuri Mosque and it is famous leaning minaret to deny the forces a symbolic triumph.
U.S.-backed Syrian forces have encircled and pressed in to the Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa in neighboring Syria following a month of fighting, although a lengthy fight is coming up next.
Greater than 2,000 militants are holed track of their own families and thousands of civilians in Raqqa’s center, the city’s most densely populated districts.
The extremists still hold several smaller sized villages and towns across Iraq and Syria.
Adapted from Salaheddin’s report from Baghdad and Associated Press writer Salar Salim in Mosul’s contributions.