World

Trapped but ISIS refuses to surrender

Iraqi forces push to clear out last pockets of jihadist resistance in Mosul

MOSUL: Iraqi forces fought to eliminate the last pockets of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) resistance in Mosul yesterday, after the premier visited the devastated city to congratulate troops on securing victory.

With the jihadists surrounded in a sliver of territory in Mosul's Old City, attention turned to the huge task of rebuilding the city and helping the civilians, with aid groups warning that Iraq's humanitarian crisis was far from over.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Sunday hailed Iraq's "heroic fighting forces" after months of difficult battles.

On his arrival in the city, his office said he was visiting "liberated" Mosul to congratulate the troops on a "major victory".

Mr Abadi later said that while "victory is certain", he was holding off on making a formal declaration "out of my respect and appreciation for our... forces that are continuing the clearing operation".

Lieutenant-General Sami al-Aridhi said the jihadists had been reduced to an area of the Old City of about 200m by 100m.

"They do not accept surrender," Lt-Gen Aridhi told AFP.But "operations are in their final stages," and "it is likely (the fighting) will end today".

His forces had information that there were between 3,000 and 4,000 civilians in the area, but it could not be independently confirmed.

Backed by the United States-led coalition, Iraqi forces launched their campaign last October to retake Mosul, which was seized by ISIS during a 2014 offensive.

The United Nations said that 920,000 people fled their homes during the battle, and while some have returned, the vast majority remain displaced. Aid groups in Iraq issued a statement calling for international support for rebuilding efforts and urged the authorities not to press civilians to return.

"Remaining insecurity, lack of basic services, explosive hazards contamination, and damage to homes, businesses and public infrastructure - including schools and hospitals - continue to pose barriers to return," said the statement. - AFP

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