UN Envoy To Iraq Says Mosul Liberation Imminent, IS 'Caliphate' Days 'Numbered'

Both Zanjili and the Old City are far more cramped that the rest of Mosul, with narrow side streets and alleys that will restrict Iraqi vehicle movement and give Islamic State fighters a clear advantage when it comes to launching their signature bomb-laden suicide vehicles.

In recent months, Islamic State has stepped up its attacks in different parts of Iraq in a bid to distract attention from the country's ongoing US-backed campaign to retake Mosul from the radical group.

All five bridges connecting the two sides of the city bisected by the Tigris were struck by the US -led coalition in order to hinder the militants' movements in the early stages of the campaign to retake Mosul previous year.

One of the key problems for Iraqi forces is the potential for crossfire, with around 150,000 civilians believed to be trapped in western Mosul across the five square miles still held by ISIS.

It has been marked by some of the most gruelling and deadly combat to date in the fight against IS in Iraq.

The city fell to ISIL fighters during a lightning charge in June 2014 that left almost one-third of Iraq in their hands and plunged the country into its most severe crisis since the US-led invasion in 2003. The Old City is the site of the Great Mosque, the site where the Islamic State's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared a "caliphate" in 2014 across parts of Iraq and Syria.

Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi has announced the next steps are to secure the Iraq-Syria border and to liberate west of Ninewa and Anbar governorates, the United Nations envoy said.

ISIL and Daesh are two acronyms by which the terror group is known.

Kubis said a dual focus must be maintained on the immediate challenges of defeating IS extremists and on preparing for the liberation, stabilization and rehabilitation of Iraq.

  • Joanne Flowers