The Iraqi Special Forces advanced into the eastern limits of Mosul on Tuesday – for the first time in two years – to drive out the Islamic State group from its last stronghold in the country. The state TV office was freed from the jihadists in Kukjali industrial zone, after which military units continued their offensive in the south-eastern Judaydat al-Mufti area that is 3 km from the Mosul airport, Al Jazeera reported.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had said on Monday that the 3,000 to 5,000 Islamic State fighters in the city had "no escape" and could "either surrender or die". On Monday, troops had seized Bazwaya, the last village in Mosul's eastern outskirts, before advancing on Kukjali, BBC reported.
Major General Sami al-Aridi said Iraqi troops had entered the Gogjali and Karama districts in the east. They had captured towns and villages on the eastern banks of the Tigris river, which divides the city in half, after attacking the Nineveh Plain to the east of Mosul with the backing of United States-led airstrikes.
The Iraqi Army and Peshmerga (Kurdish militia) were advancing on the city from the north, east and west, which Hashd forces (Iraqi state-sponsored militia) were making progress from the west to cut off the terrorist groups routes to Syria. However, the United Nations has repeatedly expressed concern over the civilian population still in the city. The jihadi group is believed to have executed hundreds of civilians and is known to use them as human shields.
Moreover, a senior Kurdish leader told The Independent that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was hiding in the city. "Baghdadi is there [in Mosul] and if he is killed, it will mean the collapse of the whole [Islamic State] system," said Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff to Kurdish President Massoud Barzani.
According to Iraqi media reports, a senior member of the Islamic State group was also killed in the western side of Mosul on Tuesday. Abu Yakoub and one of his aides died in clashes with Iraqi joint forces in al-Shallalat district, Al Sumaria News reported.
Iraqi forces, which have the backing of a US-led coalition and a number of militias, launched its operation to retake Mosul from the Islamic State group on October 17. Since then, it had seized hundreds of towns and villages on the outskirts of the city. The mission is considered the biggest since US troops withdrew from the country in 2014, and the city's capture will deal a heavy blow to the terror outfit.