Iraqi forces preparing to capture west Mosul after east mostly seized

By Andrew V. Pestano Follow @AVPLive9 Contact the Author   |   Jan. 18, 2017 at 10:56 AM

Jan. 18 (UPI) -- The Iraqi government declared victory in east Mosul on Wednesday as its military prepared to launch a final offensive to retake the densely populated west side of the city.

"We are celebrating the victory and liberation today," Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service Lt. Gen Talib al-Shaqati said in a press conference in Bartella, about 13 miles east of Mosul. "I think normal life will be back in the next few days. Life was normal today in those areas. We call it the clean liberation."

Shaqati said liberating the western half of Mosul will be easier because the Islamic State has already thrown all of its resources into combating Iraqi forces.

The second phase of the battle to retake Mosul -- which is led by Iraqi security forces and aided by the Kurdish Peshmerga, a Shiite-led militia, and the U.S.-led international coalition against the Islamic State -- began Dec. 29 after the initial offensive, which began Oct. 17, was suspended.

The Iraqi Joint Command did not join the ICTS victory declaration because there is still some resistance by the Islamic State in the city's Arabiyah and Rashidiyah north-eastern districts, Rudaw reported.

"The entire [east] has not been liberated yet," Lt. Gen. Abdul Amir Rashid Yarallah, an Iraqi commander, said. "Regarding the ICTS, they have accomplished their mission as part of the eastern front ... of the city of Mosul, and the advance to the remaining areas is still continuing."

Iraqi security forces said they are in control of all of Mosul's bridges -- at least one of which has been destroyed by the Islamic State to inhibit Iraq's advance.

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