“Roughly 65-70 percent of the eastern side has been liberated,” said Lieutenant General Talib Shaghati, who is also head of the elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) spearheading the campaign to retake the northern city. “I think in the coming few days we will see the full liberation of the eastern side” he added. The western half of the city remains under the full control of Islamic State. The presence of large numbers of civilians on the battlefield has restricted Iraqi forces’ use of artillery but the cooperation of residents has also helped them targeting the militants. Iraqi officials expressed hope that residents would rise up against Islamic State, accelerating the group’s demise in the city. But mass executions seem to have discouraged widespread resistance.“Daesh (Islamic State) devised many plans to obstruct and block us but they failed. We were able to surpass them and these areas were liberated with high speed,” Shaghati said.
Turkey’s President says Turkish-backed Syrian opposition forces are facing resistance from Islamic State fighters but are close to taking the Syrian town of al-Bab from the extremists. Recep Tayyip Erdogan also told reporters Wednesday that U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters – which Turkey views as terrorists because of their affiliation to Kurdish rebels in Turkey – would soon leave the town of Manbij, in keeping with a U.S. promise to Turkey.