A displaced Iraqi man is escorted by Iraqi forces after fleeing his home in Mosul's western Al-Shifa district on June 15, 2017. More than half a million people have fled their homes since the operation to retake western Mosul began in February this year. Photo: AFP/Mohamed El-Shahed
MOSUL, Iraq – An Iraqi commander has told Rudaw that they have liberated the Shifa district in western Mosul from ISIS after weeks of fighting, meaning that the extremist group remains besieged within the last remaining district in Old Mosul.
This comes as the Iraqi army also announced that it recaptured the Walidiya border gate between the Iraqi-Syrian border following a joint operation from three fronts between the Iraqi army, Hashd al-Asahaari, backed by the Iraqi air force and US-led global coalition against ISIS.
Khalil Badran from the Iraqi Federal police said that they are now clearing the Shifa district from any remaining ISIS militants and explosives. It took the Iraqi forces a few weeks before they could capture this area.
Iraqi forces also announced the liberation of Bab al-Sinjar on Thursday, and with today's advance in Shifa district, ISIS is expected to make the last stand in Old Mosul.
The UN's Humanitarian Coordinator Lisa Grande told the Associated Press that they expect the fight for Old Mosul to begin "within days".
The UN warned on Friday that up to 100,000 civilians remain trapped in the district with fears that the extremist group may use them as human shields.
ISIS on Wednesday launched a wide-scale counterattack on the Iraqi army to break out of the Old Mosul district, the extremist group’s last holdout in the western half of Mosul where they are surrounded by Iraqi forces. The confrontation killed 11 Iraqi Federal Police and some 40 ISIS militants.
Old Mosul is where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the so-called Islamic Caliphate on July 4, 2014 in al-Nuri mosque.
The Russian Defense Ministry announced Friday that it is checking information that it may have killed the ISIS leader in an airstrike on May 28 near the ISIS de facto capital of Raqqa in Syria. Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and the Global Coalition said they did not have confirmation.
Iraqi forces also made significant advances on the border with Syria and Jordan, taking the Walidiya border gate on the Iraqi-Syrian border.
Iraq's Joint Command said the operation on the border is named "New Dawn" and was able Saturday to reclaim the remaining border areas west of Mosul that stretched from the Syrian border down to the Jordanian border with Iraq.
Brigadier General Abdul Hussen Xaz Ali, a commander in the Iraqi army told Rudaw that they are making preparations to launch a military offensive against the ISIS-held Turkmen town of Tal Afar after their forces were able to capture several villages east of the town, near Badush.
Correction: an earlier version of the story reported that the ISIS leader declared his caliphate on June 29, 2014 in Mosul. While it is true that the caliphate was declared on that date, Baghdadi named himself in the al-Nuri mosque a caliph or the leader of Muslims on July 4, 2014 in Mosul as he led Friday prayers.