U.S. -backed Iraqi troops and their allies are advancing on Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL)-held territory in Mosul in an effort to push the jihadists out of their Grand al-Nuri Mosque stronghold before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
“Our advance on a vast front has stunned the enemy and, God willing, we will achieve victory before Ramadan and announce the liberation of Mosul and people of Mosul from dirtiness of Daesh [Islamic State],” Lt. Gen. Othman al-Ghanmi, chief of staff of the Iraqi military, said in a video distributed by the country’s Defence Ministry, reports Reuters.
“If we advance this quickly we can finish it in days,” Iraqi First Lt. Nawfal al-Dhari told Reuters, adding, ”These are their dying breaths. They are completely surrounded.”
The offensive to recapture Mosul, considered ISIS’s last bastion in Iraq, began last October.
U.S-backed Iraqi forces have managed to corner the ISIS terrorists in northwestern Mosul, home to the historic Old City center and the medieval Grand al-Nuri Mosque, where the jihadists’ black flag has been flying since June 2014.
Capturing the mosque would deal a major blow to jihadi morale and could bring the resistance in Mosul to an end because the Grand al-Nuri Mosque “has symbolic and strategic value for Islamic State,” Iraqi officials told Reuters.
“Military commanders and intelligence officials say they aim to take control of the mosque before Ramadan starts at the end of this month [May 27] even if there are still pockets under militant control,” reports Reuters, referring to the Grand al-Nuri Mosque where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a “caliphate” covering swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014.
Lt. al-Dhari told Reuters Iraq’s elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) is close to defeating ISIS despite the ongoing resistance from the terrorists.
Citing Iraqi officials, CNN reports that ISIS only controls one tenth of Mosul, adding, “But they anticipate that the final, most difficult phase is yet to come.”
“If you trap a cat in a room, it will scratch,” proclaimed Lt. al-Dhari.
Iraqi Brig. Gen. Yahia Rasoul, a spokesperson for the Joint Operations Command, also said ISIS only controls nine percent of western Mosul. The U.S.-backed local forces liberated the eastern part of the city months ago.
The battle for Mosul is ISIS’s last stand in Iraq.
“They had pills in their pockets,” an Iraqi soldier told CNN, referring to ISIS militants. “That’s how they keep fighting.”
Some Iraqi soldiers are taking selfies — “for a moment they flash a smile” — next to the corpses of ISIS terrorists they have killed, reports CNN.
“Flies buzz around the drying rivulets of blood seeping from the heads of two corpses draped over the hood of a Humvee,” reveals the cable news network.
“One of the bodies, partially charred, lies face down; by his chest is webbing where he had kept magazines for an automatic rifle. The other, with long matted hair, faces the Humvee’s bullet-pocked windshield,” it continues. “His ragged pants are pulled down around his knees, a piece of green and yellow electric wire loosely wound around his ankles.”
Tens of thousands of U.S.-backed Iraqi military troops, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, Sunni tribesmen, and Iran-allied Shiite militiamen have been fighting to dislodge ISIS terrorists entrenched in Mosul. The U.S.-backed coalition outnumbers the ISIS terrorists in Mosul.