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Iraqis Prepare Celebrations For Expected Liberation Of Mosul


Members of the Iraqi Counterterrorism Service cheer as they carry an upside-down flag of the Islamic State extremist group, with the destroyed Grand Al-Nuri Mosque seen in the background, in the Old City of Mosul on July 2.

Iraqis are preparing to celebrate an expected victory over Islamic State (IS) extremists in Mosul, even as the final desperate militants put up a last stand in the few districts they still control.

U.S.-backed Iraqi troops on July 2 were seen putting up white banners and Iraqi flags on damaged buildings in the Old City, including on the ruined minaret of the Grand Al-Nuri Mosque, which the extremists blew up as the battle turned against them.

An Iraqi government statement said the authorities are planning a week of nationwide celebrations to mark the liberation of Mosul.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is expected to visit Mosul to formally declare victory.

Staff Brigadier General Nabil al-Fatlawi, a commander in the elite Counterterrorism Service (CTS), said the Old City has not yet been totally liberated.

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"The number is...more or less 300 fighters, most of them of European nationalities, Arabs, of other nationalities, or of Asian origin," he said of the remaining extremists.

The liberation of Mosul would represent a major blow to the militants, who captured large swathes of territory in 2014 in brutal fighting against Syrian and Iraqi government forces.

IS also still controls territory west and south of Mosul, where tens of thousands of civilians remain trapped behind the front lines, officials said.

Meanwhile, a woman suicide bomber blew herself up on July 3 in the midst of a crowd of civilians who were fleeing the battles in Mosul.

Iraqi officials say the attacker was a Tunisian woman who joined the crowd that was trying to escape the fighting in western Mosul.

Two civilians were killed and nine were injured, including two government soldiers.

The attack came a day after a suicide bomber dressed as a veiled woman killed 14 people and wounded 13 others in a displacement camp to the west of Baghdad.

The July 2 attack was carried out at a camp known as Kilo 60 that houses people who have been forced out of Sunni Muslim areas under IS control. IS militants claimed responsibility for the July 2 attack, saying they had been targeting an Iraqi army position.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, dpa, and AFP
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