July 3, 2017 - 14:12 AMT
Iraq says battling last jihadists in Old Mosul

Iraqi forces were battling the last few hundred jihadists in Mosul's historic centre Sunday, July 2 as they pressed the final stages of an assault to drive the Islamic State group from the city, AFP reports.

More than eight months since the operation to retake Mosul was launched, IS has gone from fully controlling the city to holding a few neighbourhoods on its western side.

"The number is... more or less 300 fighters, most of them of European nationalities, Arabs of other nationalities or of Asian origin," said Staff Brigadier General Nabil al-Fatlawi, a commander in the elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS).

"We are not able to specify when the battles will end because of the narrow type of streets in the Old City and also the presence of civilian detainees," Fatlawi said, referring to residents being used as human shields by IS.

"But I can say within days," he said.

Earlier in the day, Iraq's Joint Operations Command announced CTS forces had recaptured the Makawi area of the Old City, in a further blow at the heart of the jihadists' cross-border "caliphate".

Iraqi forces have been closing in on the Old City for months, but its narrow streets and closely spaced buildings combined with a large civilian population made for an extremely difficult fight.

Security forces recaptured a series of nearby districts, cornering the jihadists, and launched an assault inside the Old City on June 18.

They have since made significant progress.