Top Iraq commander announces ‘liberation’ of east Mosul
BARTALLA, IraqIraqi forces have fully retaken east Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a top commander said on Jan. 18, three months after a huge offensive against the jihadist bastion was launched.
Elite forces have in recent days entered the last neighborhoods on the eastern side of Mosul, on the left bank of the Tigris River that runs through the city.
Speaking at a press conference in Bartalla, a town east of Mosul, Staff General Talib al-Sheghati, who heads the Counter-Terrorism Service, announced “the liberation... of the left bank.”
Sheghati added however that while the east of the city could be considered under government control, some work remained to be done to flush out the last holdout jihadists.
The “important lines and important areas are finished,” he said, adding that “there is only a bit of the northern [front] remaining.”
The announcement marks the end of a phase in the operation launched on Oct. 17, 2016 to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second city and the last major urban stronghold ISIL has in the country.
The offensive, Iraq’s largest military operation in years with tens of thousands of fighters involved, began with a focus on sparsely populated areas around Mosul.
CTS entered the city proper in November and encountered tougher than expected resistance from ISIL, whose fighters launched a huge number of suicide car bombs against advancing Iraqi forces.
The going was tough for weeks but a fresh push coordinated with other federal forces and backed by the US-led coalition was launched in December and yielded quick and decisive gains.
The west bank of Mosul is a bit smaller but is home to the narrow streets of the Old City - impassable to most military vehicles - and to some of the city’s traditionally most dyed-in-the-wool jihadist neighborhoods.