Islamic State militants have pledged to “fight to the death” in the Old City of Mosul in Iraq.
The fighters are making their last stand in the district of Maydan on the banks of the River Tigris, where Islamic State’s Amaq news agency said there had been “fierce fighting”.
Iraqi commanders have said their forces are “tens of metres” away from defeating IS there.
A US general told the AFP news agency that the Iraqi military was close to announcing a final victory.
“An announcement is imminent,” Brigadier General Robert Sofge said. “I don’t want to speculate if it’s today or tomorrow but I think it’s going to be very soon.”
Amaq said that IS militants were “holding onto their fortified positions”.
“The fighters of Islamic State are collectively pledging (to fight to the) death in Maydan,” it said.
Mosul fell to IS in the summer of 2014.
A column of smoke billowed over the Old City’s riverside on Saturday afternoon. Gunfire and artillery explosions could be heard.
Security forces have been going house to house in a maze of narrow alleyways.
Iraqi commanders said the militants were fighting for every scrap of territory, using snipers, grenades and suicide bombers.
“The battle has reached the phase of chasing the insurgents in remaining blocks,” the Iraqi military media office said in a statement.
“Some members of Daesh have surrendered.”
Reuters said dozens of Iraqi soldiers celebrated on the banks of the Tigris without waiting for victory to be formally declared.
Some were apparently listening to music from a truck and firing machine guns into the air.
Without Mosul, the area under Islamic State’s control in Iraq will be made up of mainly rural, desert areas west and south of the city, home to tens of thousands of people.
The operation to recapture Mosul was launched in October 2016.
In some areas, there is hardly a building that has not been damaged.
It will cost more than $1bn to repair basic infrastructure, the United Nations has predicted.
Many of the almost one million residents displaced by the conflict are living in camps outside the city.
Musing on the future, 43-year-old clothing trader Mohammed Haji Ahmed said: “If there is no rebuilding and people don’t return to their homes and regain their belongings, what is the meaning of liberation?”
Source: Sky News World
Full Story: IS pledges to ‘fight to the death’ in Mosul