An Iraqi commander says he expects to dislodge Islamic State (IS) from Mosul in May despite resistance from militants in the densely populated Old City district.
- Commanders says “maximum of three weeks” before Mosul recaptured
- Islamic State has been in control of Mosul since June 2014
- UN estimates 1,500 Yazidi women and girls remain in captivity
The battle should be completed “in a maximum of three weeks”, the Iraqi army’s chief of staff, Lieutenant General Othman al-Ghanmi, was quoted as saying by state-run newspaper al-Sabah on Sunday.
A US-led international coalition is providing air and ground support for the offensive in Mosul, the largest city in northern Iraq, which fell to hardline Sunni Muslim fighters in June 2014.
Islamic State has lost most of the city’s districts since the offensive began in October and is surrounded in the north-western districts, including the historic Old City centre.
The United Nations believes up to half a million people remain in the area controlled by the militants, 400,000 of whom are in the Old City with little food and water and no access to hospitals.
The militants have dug in alongside the civilians, often launching deadly counter-attacks to repel forces closing in on the Old City’s Grand al-Nuri Mosque, from where Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate over parts of Iraq and Syria.