ERBIL, Iraq Iraqi forces said they were about to complete the encirclement of Islamic State’s stronghold in the Old City of Mosul, after taking control of a neighboring district on Thursday.
Iraq’s military said it had captured Bab Sinjar, north of the historic, densely-populated district where the militants launched their cross-border “caliphate” in 2014.
Government forces and their allies still have to take full control of Medical City, a complex of hospitals further north along the bank of the Tigris, to enclose the militant enclave. [NL8N1JA1VU]
The offensive to retake the northern city started in October with air and ground support from a US-led international coalition.
Iraqi government forces retook eastern Mosul in January then a month later began the offensive on the western side where bout 200,000 civilians remain trapped behind Islamic State lines. [NL8N1IX3WN] [nL8N1IV0ZR]
The fall of Mosul would, in effect, mark the end of the Iraqi half of the “caliphate” that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared in a speech from a historic mosque in the Old City.
About 800,000 people, more than a third of the pre-war population of Mosul, have already fled, seeking refugee with friends and relatives or in camps.
Kurdish forces backed by US-air strikes are also besieging Islamic State forces in the city of Raqqa, the militants’ de facto capital in neighboring Syria.
(Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Andrew Heavens)