July 2 (UPI) — Iraqi forces have surrounded Islamic State fighters in Mosul in their efforts to retake the second-largest city in Iraq, the military said.
Federal police units recaptured a bridge over the Tigris River on Saturday — the last escape route for the Islamic State, the military said.
The forces took over Ibn Sina Teaching Hospital and other medical facilities, including a blood bank and a clinic, Staff Lt. Gen. Abdulamir Yarallah said in a statement Saturday.
U.S.-backed Iraqi troops also recaptured neighborhoods in the Old City.
“Our forces are advancing from three sides and are pursuing the terrorist groups in the few remaining areas of the Old City,” Staff Lt. Gen. Abdulamir Yarallah said in a statement.
On June 18, Iraqi forces launched a renewed operation on the Old City.
“Daesh now holds control over a few small residential areas. Iraqi forces are advancing into the Old City,” Yahia Rasoul, Iraqi joint forces spokesman, told state-run TV on Saturday, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. “Victory in the western part will be announced soon.”
On Thursday, they recaptured the remains of the mosque where Islamic State chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made his only known public appearance. As the forces closed in, the militants blew the mosque up along with its famed leaning minaret.
“The return of al-Nuri Mosque and al-Hadba minaret to the fold of the nation marks the end of the Daesh state of falsehood,” Abadi said in a statement on Thursday.
He said the destruction is an “official declaration of defeat.”
At least 50,000 civilians are believed to still be trapped in Islamic State-occupied pockets of Mosul.
“We are seeing the end of Daesh in Mosul as Iraqi forces closed in on the terrorists in the city’s old quarters, but there are civilians who remain trapped in the area or are held as human shields by the terrorists,” the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq said in a statement Saturday.
“The well-being of civilians is a matter of extreme concern for us,” the statement said.
Residents said that extremists were still living among civilians in liberated parts of the city.
“There are at least 30 ISIS terrorists in my neighborhood. We know them very well,” said Mohammed Sinan, an unemployed businessman who lives in the Al-Andulus area in eastern Mosul recaptured in January, told NBC News.
Zuher Al-Juburi, a government-appointed city councilor in Mosul, told NBC News hundreds of Islamic State members living throughout the city. NBC News couldn’t verify these accounts.
“The only thing they did is they shaved their beards and changed their clothes,” he said Saturday.
Al-Juburi said not all of them are fighters but some are advocates and support Islamic State with money.
The United Nations said 415 civilians were killed in June and another 315 died in acts of terrorism, violence and armed conflict.