Mosul, IRAQ — More than 600 Islamic State fighters had been killed and 900 families were set free from western Mosul’s Old City as Iraqi forces recaptured the group’s birthplace mosque on Thursday. The military declared the extremists’ reign in the country to be over.


Abdul-Ghani al-Assadi, commander of the army’s elite Counter-Terrorism Service, was quoted by Rudaw network saying Iraqi forces killed more than 600 Islamic State militants as they took over Nuri al-Kabir mosque, the place where the group’s founder, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared the establishment of the group’s rule in 2014, Iraqi News reports. “Daesh (Islamic State) fighters are fighting ferociously, but have failed to stop advances by Iraqi troops,” he said.

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Civilians living nearby were evacuated in the past days through corridors, he added.


CTS units are now in control of the mosque area and the al-Hadba and Sirjkhana neighborhoods and they are still advancing, a military statement said.

A U.S.-led international coalition is providing air and ground support to the Iraqi forces fighting through the Old City’s maze of narrow alleyways.


Independent UK reports that Isis blew up the 12th century al-Nuri mosque last week after it became apparent US-backed Iraqi forces had begun a push in its direction. Its black flag had flown from the al-Hadba (Hunchback) minaret since June 2014, when the extremists managed to capture one third of Iraq after sweeping across the border from Syria.

The seizure of the 850-year-old Grand al-Nuri Mosque is a huge symbolic victory for the Iraqi forces fighting to recapture Mosul, which had served as Islamic State’s de facto capital in Iraq.

Lt Gen Abdul Wahab al-Saadi told the Associated Press elite special troops entered the compound and took control of the surrounding streets on Thursday afternoon after a dawn offensive.

The site will need to be cleared by explosives experts as ISIS often rigs areas it has retreated from with booby traps.

Sabah al-Noaman, a spokesperson of the CTS, also said only a few groups of ISIS were hiding at some areas of the Old City while trying to find a way out. He said forces freed more than 900 families from the district.

“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,” Iraqi premier Haider al-Abadi said in a statement earlier on Thursday.

Al-Abadi has already “issued instructions to bring the battle to its conclusion”, his office said on Wednesday.

He said Iraqi forces would continue to hunt Islamic State’s fighters “to kill them and detain them, down to the last one”.

Operation Inherent Resolve to retake the city began in October 2016. While the struggle for Mosul – once a cosmopolitan city of 1.5 million people and the jewel in Isis’s crown – has almost reached its end, the militants still cling on to pockets of northern Iraq near the border with Syria.


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