Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition in Iraq and Syria, updated reporters on the status of the eight-month-long Iraqi offensive to retake the city.
In a dawn offensive, Iraqi Security Forces liberated the al-Nuri mosque area, where three years ago Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the ISIS caliphate. Last week, ISIS fighters placed explosives that destroyed much of the historic mosque and its minaret tower.
Forces were less than two square kilometers away from the mosque’s ruins when the offensive began on Thursday. Dillon called the liberation of the mosque a “significant and symbolic recapture.”
There are only two remaining ISIS holdouts in Mosul: the al-Jamhuri hospital complex and the Old City in western Mosul. Dillon described the hospital as an 11-story “killing tower” that ISIS has used to target civilians fleeing the city.
However, the Iraqi military’s War Media Cell claimed Thursday they had already retaken the al-Jamhuri hospital, as well as nearby facilities.
— OIR Spokesman (@OIRSpox) June 29, 2017
But the end for ISIS in Mosul is near.
“[ISIS] leaders have abandoned fighters to die, local fighters are being left to rot where they fall, while foreign fighters receive proper burials,” Dillon said.
He described some of the remaining ISIS fighters as making “rookie mistakes,” even blowing themselves up accidentally when preparing for combat.
With Mosul about to fall and Raqqa completely encircled by coalition-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, Dillon proclaimed that “there is no hub anymore” for ISIS.
There’s still a long road ahead for displaced residents hoping to return to their homes.
So far, 191,000 civilians have returned to East Mosul, which Dillon said is in far better condition than West Mosul, which sustained more damage.
Iraq’s Ministry for Migration and Displacement said last week that 700,000 have been displaced from western Mosul alone.