Iraqi forces have said the battle for Mosul is nearly over after reportedly retaking 90 percent of west Mosul from "Islamic State" (IS). The troops are moving into the Old City, where IS will likely make its last stand.
After retaking Mosul's eastern side earlier this year, Iraqi forces have now reclaimed the vast majority of the western part of the city, a military spokesman said on Tuesday.
The so-called "Islamic State" (IS) still controls "10.5 percent of... the right bank," Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, spokesman for the Joint Operations Command, said during a news conference in Baghdad.
Planes also dropped leaflets into the city telling civilians that the battle for Mosul was almost over.
Seven months after the start of the US-backed campaign, IS militants now control only a few districts in the western portion of Mosul, including the Old City which is one of the country's historic jewels.
A spokesman for the US-led coalition that is supporting Iraqi troops said that the IS fighters were completely surrounded in the city and that their resources were being destroyed.
"The enemy is on the brink of total defeat in Mosul," US Air Force Colonel John Dorrian said during the Baghdad press conference.
The Old City's narrow streets and closely spaced buildings make it difficult for the troops to push out the IS militants, requiring Iraqi troops to fight on foot instead of from vehicles.
Around 250,000 civilians are believed to be trapped inside west Mosul. The large civilian population, which either chose not to leave the city or was prevented from doing so by IS also complicates the final assault in Mosul. Many in Mosul have been killed either by IS or heavy bombardments.
The Iraqi government is hoping to declare victory in Mosul by the holy month of Ramadan, which is to begin on May 27, even if some pockets of IS resistance remain in the Old City.
IS overtook large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces have since retaken much of the territory with the help of US-led air strikes.
rs/jm (AFP, Reuters)