Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said Isis “does not have the guts” to continue its resistance in Mosul for much longer, despite unleashing a stream of car bombs that have killed both Iraqi soldiers and civilians.
Six weeks into their offensive, government forces say they have captured almost half of eastern Mosul and killed nearly 1,000 jihadis, but their progress has slowed as they move into into the city proper – where one million residents remain.
The Iraqi government asked civilians to stay in their homes, after humanitarian groups said they could not cope with hundreds of thousands displaced from the area.
The battle for Mosul – Iraq’s second largest city – now looks set to continue well into 2017.
But despite the slowing pace of the invasion, both military and government leaders have said the Isis fighters were losing momentum.
“We have seen the whole organisation collapsing in terms of standing in the face of our own armed forces,” Mr Abadi told The Associated Press.
“The success of liberating a huge area indicates that Daesh [Isis] does not have the guts now or the motivation to fight as they were doing before,” he added.
Mr Abadi said Mosul was now completely encircled and that the speed with which the area was secured had surpassed his expectations.
He declined to say how many government troops have been killed since the operation began six weeks ago, but said the rate of battlefield losses was “sustainable”.
Major General Abdul Ghani al-Asadi, a top commander in the Iraqi special forces, told Reuters 990 militants had been killed in fighting in the east so far.
“We have made changes to plans, partly due to the changing nature of the enemy ... Daesh [Isis] is not based in one location, but moving from here to there,” he said.
“Tanks don't work here, artillery is not effective. Planes from the coalition force and the air force are restricted because of the civilians.”
Since Prime Minister Abadi took office two years ago, Iraqi forces have retaken more than half of the territory Isis held at the peak of its power, when the jihadis’ controlled a third of the country.
Mosul is the last urban stronghold Isis has in Iraq and Mr Abadi said liberating it would lead to the extremist group’s eventual demise, since it would decrease its ability to recruit foreign fighters and attract financing.
“This is like a snake, if you hit it in the middle or the tail, it's no use. I have to hit it on the head,” he told The Associated Press.
“And the head of this terrorist organisation is Mosul. If I remove Mosul from them, this is a huge blow [...] to its efforts to recruit young people from different countries of the world.”
The Iraqi Prime Minister added that he believed Donald Trump’s administration would increase logistical support for his government forces.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press and Reuters
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