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Mosul victory announcement imminent, says US general

I don’t want to speculate if it’s today or tomorrow but I think it’s going to be very soon, Brigadier General Robert Sofge says.

world Updated: Jul 09, 2017 00:15 IST
Smoke billows as Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service members advance in the old city of Mosul on Friday during the Iraqi government forces’ offensive to retake the city from Islamic State group fighters.
Smoke billows as Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service members advance in the old city of Mosul on Friday during the Iraqi government forces’ offensive to retake the city from Islamic State group fighters.(AFP)

Iraqi authorities will imminently announce a final victory in the battle to recapture Mosul from the Islamic State group, a US general said on Saturday.

“An announcement is imminent,” Brigadier General Robert Sofge told AFP by phone from Baghdad. “I don’t want to speculate if it’s today or tomorrow but I think it’s going to be very soon,” he added.

The jihadists that remain in Mosul are fighting to the death in a tiny area of just two blocks of the Old City next to the Tigris River, Sofge said, and those that remain are “desperate.”

Some are trying to blend in with fleeing civilians by shaving their beards and changing their clothes, others are playing dead then detonating explosive vests as Iraqi security forces come close. Women IS fighters have blown themselves up amid throngs of displaced civilians.

“They are doing as much damage as they can during these final moves,” Sofge said.

The battle for Mosul first began on October 16, 2016 and the fight has seemed to grow exponentially tougher as US-backed Iraqi security forces closed in on the centre of the city.

Slowing the advance toward the final holdouts, IS have placed countless booby traps and bombs in practically every structure they occupied.

“The enemy has strung IEDs all over the place, in every place, in every closet, in one case under a crib,” Sofge said.

A final victory in Mosul would mark an epic milestone for the Iraqi security forces, who had crumbled in the face of an IS onslaught across Iraq in 2014.

“They deserve every bit of a celebration and pride and sense of accomplishment that a military force can feel,” Sofge said, offering a “congratulation in advance in a great battle.”

“This fight in Mosul is not like anything modern militaries have done in our lifetime. You have to go back to World War II to find anything that’s even close.”

Still, Sofge warned that IS still has “plenty of fight left” in other parts of Iraq and Syria.

The jihadists remain entrenched in several areas including Hawija, Ninevah and the Euphrates River Valley.

“The liberation of Mosul is going to cause a reaction,” the general said. “We have to be on guard for the next move.”

Sofge runs a combined operations centre for the anti-IS coalition in Baghdad and oversees a “strike cell” that coordinates air strikes in the southern and western part of the country.