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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Facing imminent defeat in Mosul, ISIL attempt to flee across river

A US-trained elite Iraqi force in the Old City of Mosul reached the Tigris riverside, state TV said, indicating that the insurgents' last redoubt is on the verge of falling

Iraqi civilians sit inside a house as they wait to be taken out of the Old City during fighting between Iraqi forces and ISIL militants in Mosul on Sunday. AP / Felipe Dana
Iraqi civilians sit inside a house as they wait to be taken out of the Old City during fighting between Iraqi forces and ISIL militants in Mosul on Sunday. AP / Felipe Dana

MOSUL // ISIL militants threw themselves into the River Tigris on Sunday, trying to flee the battlefield in Mosul as they faced imminent defeat by Iraqi forces fighting to dislodge them from their last pocket in the city.

A US-trained elite Iraqi force in the Old City of Mosul reached the Tigris riverside, state TV said, indicating that the insurgents' last redoubt is on the verge of falling.

After eight months of combat that has ruined parts of the city, killed thousands of civilians and displaced nearly one million people, Iraqi officials say victory is close.

The militants have been driven from all but a patch of territory on the western bank of the Tigris bisecting Mosul, where they have staged a last stand in the narrow alleys of the Old City.

Plumes of smoke rose over the Old City on Sunday and the decaying corpses of ISIL fighters lay in the streets. Scattered bursts of gunfire could be heard and several air strikes were carried out.

Iraqi military spokesman, Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, told state TV earlier on Sunday that 30 militants had been killed attempting to get away by swimming across the Tigris.

Later, Iraqiya News ran and on-screen headline saying: 'Forces from the Counter Terrorism Service raised the Iraqi flag on the Tigris river bank in the Old City of Mosul".

Islamic State vowed on Saturday to "fight to the death" in Mosul.

Cornered in a shrinking area of the city, the militants have resorted to sending women suicide bombers among the thousands of civilians who are emerging from the battlefield wounded, malnourished and fearful.

The battle has also exacted a heavy toll on Iraq's security forces.

The Iraqi government does not reveal casualty figures, but a funding request from the US Department of Defense said the Counterterrorism Service, which has spearheaded the fight in Mosul, had suffered 40 per cent losses.

The US leads an international coalition that is backing the campaign against ISIL in Mosul by conducting air strikes against the militants and assisting troops on the ground.

Without Mosul — by far the largest city to fall under militant control — ISIL's dominion in Iraq will be reduced to mainly rural, desert areas west and south of the city where tens of thousands of people live.

It is almost exactly three years since the ultra-hardline group's leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi proclaimed a "caliphate" spanning Syria and Iraq from the pulpit of the medieval Grand Al Nuri mosque.