Iraqi troops in Mosul. Photo by Hejar Jawhar/Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region--Iraqi special forces are gearing up for what they call the second phase of the Mosul offensive to retake the city from the extremist group ISIS, commanders told Rudaw.
The commander of the Golden Division, Fazil Barwari, said that he expects to liberate the east side of the city by New Year ’s Eve.
Iraqi troops claim they have retaken at least 40 neighborhoods of Mosul from ISIS since they launched an offensive on October 17, though this figure has been put at 20 by their coalition partners.
“Now Iraqi forces are resuming the battle to liberate the rest and fully take control of the city,” Saad al-Hadithi, the Iraqi government spokesperson told Rudaw TV on Saturday.
“Iraqi forces are committed to abide by the plan (to liberate) Mosul, protecting civilians, as well,” al-Hadithi added.
Meanwhile he admitted that it is becoming a slow battle as troops advance further into the city, especially due to concerns for civilian life.
“It is a great challenge that Iraqi forces are trying to liberate Mosul and keep its civilians safe,” he said.
It took Iraqi forces more than 60 days to complete the first phase of the Mosul battle.
Mosul is the capital of the Nineveh province, 60 percent of which has been liberated by the army in the last two years, said the Iraqi government spokesperson.
Al-Hadithi said that the army also has the challenge of treating wounded civilians in liberated areas.
“We are also treating those who are wounded as a result of indiscriminate ISIS mortar attacks,” he said.