UPDATED: Government forces take over Mosul’s Old City

Iraqi military tanks advance towards the Islamic State-held Old City in western Mosul, Iraq June 18, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

Mosul ( Iraqi government forces on Saturday took control over western Mosul’s medieval Old City, the last bastion for Islamic State militants in Iraq’s second largest city, Iraqi media quoted the operations command saying.

The Iraqi Joint Operations Command spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Yahia Rasoul, was quoted saying forces took control over the Old City, the birthplace of Islamic State’s self-styled “caliphate” in Iraqi and Syria which was declared in 2014, suggesting the end of IS’s three-year existence in the city.

The Defense Ministry’s War Media Cell said earlier that government forces killed 35 Islamic State members and wounded six others while sneaking from the western side of Mosul into the eastern side. It also said Federal Police forces finished their combat missions in the Old City by retaking Nujaifi street, Bab al-Toub and Souk al-Sagha (jewelry market), all previously marked as the last spots remaining in IS grip.

The statement said the militants were escaping the advancing troops in the Old City.

Iraqi government forces, backed by a U.S.-led coalition, have been fighting IS out of Mosul since mid October. Late June, troops took over the Old City’s Nuri al-Kabir Mosque where IS first declared the establishment of its rule  in 2014 in a sermon delivered by the supreme leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

iraqi generals  had said  only a few hundred militants remain in a small area in neighborhoods overlooking the Tigris River, which bisects the city.

The war against IS  in Mosul has displaced at least 900.000, according to Iraqi and United Nations authorities, and civilians continued to flee as operations reached the last hideouts in the Old City.

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