The Islamic State group has stepped up suicide attacks as it seeks to hold off Iraqi forces in the final stages of the battle for Mosul, a senior commander said Monday.
More than eight months after the operation to retake Mosul was launched, IS has gone from fully controlling the city to holding a limited area on its western side.
“The enemy has been using suicide bombers, especially women, for the past three days in some of the neighbourhoods,” said Staff Lieutenant General Sami al-Aridhi, a senior commander in the elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS).
“Before that, they were using snipers and bombs more,” he said.
“There are still at least 200 fighters from the (IS) organisation” in Mosul, most of them foreigners, he said.
Iraqi forces have been closing in on the Old City in west Mosul for months, but its narrow streets and closely spaced buildings combined with a large civilian population made for an extremely difficult fight.
“The battle will end in five days to a week,” Aridhi said.
Civilians fleeing the fighting are receiving treatment at a makeshift clinic in Mosul.
“People come from the Old City of Mosul, where fierce fighting is taking place. They’re running away from (IS), running away from death, hunger and fear,” said Nazar Salih, a doctor at the clinic.
Shahed Omar, a 20-year-old who fled the Old City, pointed to two children at the clinic.
“This one’s father was killed, and that girl there, her father was killed as well,” Omar said.
Security forces recaptured a series of nearby districts, cornering the jihadists, and launched an assault inside the Old City on June 18.
They have since made significant progress.
But the impending end of the battle has given rise to the latest round of inter-service rivalry over who gets to declare it over.