Iraqi troops have pushed into the center of the last town before Mosul where Daesh terrorists await a final offensive by the army and volunteer forces to drive them out.
Units of the police force on Saturday moved into the town of Hammam al-Alil which includes a vast territory on the banks of the Tigris river and hoisted the Iraqi flag over buildings.
They also captured six villages near the town, which is located some 25 kilometers south of Mosul, after launching an offensive on Friday.
Iraqi police commander Major-General Thamer al-Husseini said federal police forces had entered the Salahiya district of Hammam al-Alil, adding the town and its surrounding areas will be liberated “within hours.”
Meanwhile, Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi forces, also known as the Popular Mobilization Units, liberated three villages west of Mosul.
The development comes as Iraqi army troops, backed by Hashd al-Shaabi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces, are closing in on Mosul, Daesh’s last stronghold in Iraq, from almost all directions in a full-scale operation launched on October 17.
On Friday, Iraqi special forces launched an assault to advance deeper into the city’s urban center, and engaged in fierce fighting with Daesh terrorists, estimated to number between 3,000 and 5,000, in the sprawling city.
The Iraqi troops managed to enter Mosul’s limits earlier this week for the first time since June 2014, when the city fell to Daesh amid a large-scale terror campaign in northern and western Iraq.
So far, a large number of the villages and districts around the city have been purged of the terrorists. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has vowed that the country’s second largest city will be fully recaptured by year-end.
In another development, two roadside bombs struck a convoy carrying Iraqi families fleeing Daesh in Mosul late on Friday, killing 18 people.
The incident took place late on Friday as the Iraqi citizens from the town of Hawijah, about 120 kilometers south of Mosul, were being taken to al-Alam, next to the Tigris River.
Police say 17 civilians and one policeman lost their lives in the incident.
Thousands of people have fled Mosul and its surrounding areas since Iraqi forces launched their offensive three weeks ago to liberate the city from Daesh terrorists.