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Iraqi Forces Capture More Old City Neighborhoods, Military Officials Say

IRAQ -- A picture taken on June 30, 2017, shows the destroyed Al-Nuri Mosque in the Old City of Mosul, as Iraqi government forces continue their offensive to retake the city from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. IS blew up the mosque and the famed Al-H

Iraqi officials report U.S.-backed government troops have recaptured more neighborhoods in the Old City of Mosul, saying dozens of Islamic State (IS) militants have been killed in fierce fighting for the extremists’ final stronghold in the country.

Iraqi joint forces spokesman Yahia Rasoul on July 1 told state-run TV that “Iraqi forces are advancing into the Old City” and IS “now holds control over a few residential areas” as the battle to end IS’ three-year hold on Mosul appears to be nearing an end.

"Victory in the western part [of Mosul] will be announced soon,” Rasoul added.

He said Iraqi forces have established safe exit routes for civilians still under siege in most IS-held areas.

The Islamist extremists seized Mosul from Iraqi government forces in June 2014 as they captured large segments of territory across Iraq and neighboring Syria, declaring an Islamic “caliphate” over areas they controlled.

But U.S.-backed forces have made steady progress against IS in both countries over recent months, nearly fully liberating Mosul and pressuring the extremists in their final Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.

On June 29, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi declared an end to IS' self-declared caliphate as his forces squeezed the militants into a few streets in Mosul’s Old City.

Based on reporting by dpa and AP