Iraqi forces to proclaim victory over IS in Mosul

Iraqi forces to proclaim victory over IS in Mosul

Iraqi forces to proclaim victory over IS in Mosul

It is nearly exactly three years since the ultra-hardline group's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed a "caliphate" spanning Syria and Iraq from the pulpit of Mosul's medieval Grand al-Nuri mosque.

Iraqi forces, backed by US-led air strikes, have been battling to retake Mosul since 17 October past year.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi has congratulated the country's armed forces for the victorious eight-month battle to liberate Mosul from three years of jihadist rule.

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Iraqi troops are now some 270 yards from the Tigris River, which divides eastern and western Mosul. Tens of thousands of army, police and counter-terrorism troops are thrown into the long-awaited offensive with air and ground support from a US-led coalition. Militants were being "chased" in some areas of the city, Iraq TV said. Heroes of the Emergency Rapid Division are celebrating the accomplishment of their mission and, God willing, Iraqi men, women and children will return safe to their homes.

Iraqi forces have been battling the remaining pockets of jihadists desperately holding out in a tiny area near the Old City.

Iraqi special forces were still fighting a few hundred meters away in the city center.

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"The fighters of Islamic State are collectively pledging (to fight to the) death in Maydan", it said.

Some Iraqi soldiers danced with rifles and machine guns, waving the national flag as they reached their assigned targets, without waiting for a formal victory announcement to be made. The militants destroyed the mosque and its famed minaret as Iraqi forces closed in last month.

According to the United States, 40 per cent of Iraq's elite forces fighting in Mosul have been killed in the operation.

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The United States-led worldwide coalition, which vociferously backed the campaign against Islamic State in Mosul, has been conducting airstrikes against the militants and assisting troops on the ground. Iraq's regional Kurdish leader said Thursday in a Reuters interview that the Baghdad central government had failed to prepare a post-battle political, security and governance plan.

Meanwhile, fighting goes on in the Syrian city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the ISIS caliphate.

The Iraqi army said on Saturday that a victory in Mosul was imminent but Daesh fighters vowed to "fight to the death".

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