A high-ranking Iraqi military commander says members of the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group are shaving their beards to blend in with civilians as they flee government forces' advance on Mosul's Old City.
“They just shave their beards and walk out. Just yesterday we captured two among a group of women and children,” Lieutenant General Sami al-Aridi of Special Forces told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
He added that hundreds of militants have managed to escape from the Old City, noting that some 300 Daesh extremists remain in the small patch of territory still controlled by them.
The remarks came on the same day that Staff Lieutenant General Abdulwahab al-Saadi, a top commander in Iraq's Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), told Arabic-language al-Forat news agency that Daesh terrorists’ hold on Mosul has shrunk to a 150-square meter area.
He went on to say that there are 100 bombers among the militants remaining in Mosul’s Old City, stressing that 90 percent of the remaining terrorists are foreigners.
Major Ali Mohsen, a member of the CTS, also told Basnews news agency that government forces have taken over 90 percent of al-Midan neighborhood, where Daesh terrorists were running underground detention facilities and stockpiling munitions.
He added that security forces have uncovered an incarceration center, where 40 people were being held in poor and unhealthy conditions.
On Tuesday, security forces liberated the main square and a multi-storey car park in the Bab al-Toub neighborhood of western Mosul and Khuzam Grand Mosque.
They also took control of the Khalid ibn al-Walid street in the Old City of Mosul.
Late on Tuesday, Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi congratulated the armed forces on a "big victory" in Mosul, declaring an end to the Daesh terror group’s self-styled caliphate.
Iraqi army soldiers and volunteer fighters from the Popular Mobilization Units, commonly known by their Arabic name, Hashd al-Sha’abi, have made sweeping gains against Daesh since launching the Mosul operation on October 17, 2016.
The Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting, and launched the battle in the west on February 19.
An estimated 862,000 people have been displaced from Mosul ever since the battle to retake the city began nine months ago. A total of 195,000 civilians have also returned, mainly to the liberated areas of eastern Mosul.