Iraqi military commanders say their forces are "tens of meters" away from defeating the Islamic State (IS) group in Mosul, as the extremist group vowed to "fight to the death" in the city.
"Our units are still continuing to advance.... Not much is left before our forces reach the river." Iraq’s Joint Operations Command said on July 8.
Iraqi officials have made similar pronouncements over the past week as security forces have pushed the militants in a sliver of the Old City along the Tigris River.
A U.S. General told AFP news agency by phone from Baghdad that "an announcement is imminent."
"I don't want to speculate if it's today or tomorrow but I think it's going to be very soon," Brigadier General Robert Sofge told AFP.
IS militants -- estimated to number in the hundreds -- occupy less than one square kilometer of territory in Mosul's Old City, a densely populated area of narrow streets and buildings. The militants are using civilians as human shields, making it difficult for U.S.-led warplanes to attack them.
Sofge told AFP that some militants are trying to blend in with fleeing civilians by shaving their beards and changing their clothes, while others are playing dead then detonating explosive vests as Iraqi security forces come close.
Female IS fighters have also blown themselves up amid groups of displaced civilians.
IS militants have also placed numerous booby traps in every structure they have occupied.
"They are doing as much damage as they can during these final moves," Sofge said.
Iraq's Joint Operations Command issued a statement saying that 35 IS members were killed and six captured while they were trying to escape from Iraqi forces across the Tigris River from west Mosul.
Earlier on July 8, dozens of Iraqi soldiers celebrated amid the rubble on the banks of the Tigris without waiting for a formal victory declaration. A Reuters correspondent said that some soldiers danced to music blaring out from a truck and fired machine guns into the air.
The IS news agency Amaq reported "fierce fighting" around the riverside district of Maydan and said that its fighters "were holding onto their fortified positions."
In another online post, Amaq said that IS militants were "collectively pledging to fight to the death in Maydan."
IS militants seized Mosul in 2014 along with large swathes of Iraqi and Syrian territory.
The offensive to retake Mosul from IS militants began in October. Iraqi forces declared eastern Mosul "fully liberated" in January.
Their urban offensive against IS militants in the more densely populated western side of Mosul began in late January.
Iraqi Army Says Mosul Victory Imminent, IS Vows To 'Fight Until Death'
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