MOSUL, Iraq, Oct. 17 (UPI) — Iraqi security forces on Monday said the Islamic State has had “heavy” losses of militants and equipment as the long-awaited battle for Mosul wages.
“Pretty soon we’ll be here to raise the flag of Iraq … in every village, in every corner,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi said in a statement on Monday in reference to the Mosul offensive, adding that the Islamic State’s flag “will not be displayed in place among us.”
Iraqi security forces said it inflicted “heavy losses of life and equipment” against the Islamic State in Mosul’s southeastern Hamdaniya district.
Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have been working to secure areas surrounding Mosul. At least six Peshmerga fighters have died and 16 others have been wounded.
The Peshmerga said it has freed from IS control all the villages which they were assigned to capture.
“The plan which was put in place has been fully implemented. The villages the Peshmerga set out to liberate have been liberated,” Sheik Jaafar Mustafa, a Peshmerga commander, told Rudaw. “We will implement any order we receive from our senior leadership. As of now, we have only been assigned to take these villages.”
— Iraqi PMU English (@pmu_english) October 17, 2016
There are estimated up to 5,000 Islamic State fighters in Mosul, though IS supporters said there are about 7,000. Iraqi security forces launched an offensive to retake the city of Mosul from Islamic State control in March. The effort began by isolating the city from surrounding areas and slowly chipping away at IS territory and supply routes. The Peshmerga later joined the offensive.
Mosul is considered one of the most important battles in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq, as it is considered the militant Islamist group’s last major stronghold in the country. U.S. President Barack Obama and Iraqi officials have said they expect Mosul to be retaken by the Iraqi government by the end of the year.
“The hour has struck. The campaign to liberate Mosul has begun. Beloved people of Mosul, the Iraqi nation will celebrate victory as one,” Abadi said in a statement.