BAGHDAD — The remaining western Mosul neighborhoods held by the Islamic State group are now completely surrounded and IS has lost more than 60 percent of the territory the militants once held in Iraq, according to a senior coalition official.
"ISIS is trapped," Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy for the global coalition against ISIS, told reporters in Baghdad Sunday, using an alternative acronym for the Islamic State group. He told reporters the Iraqi army had taken control of the last road leading out of Mosul late Saturday night.
Iraqi forces are currently fighting ISIS in western Mosul after declaring the city's east "fully liberated" in January. The operation to retake Mosul was launched in October more than two years after the extremists took control of Iraq's second largest city.
"Mosul's liberation is increasingly in sight albeit with increasingly difficult fighting ahead," McGurk said, adding that Iraqi forces are retaking "some of the most difficult ground that we knew would have to be reclaimed. They're doing this in a dense urban environment facing a suicidal enemy that's using civilians as shields."
Coalition air support has been pivotal to Iraq's fight against ISIS, helping Iraqi forces slowly claw back territory throughout Iraq's western Anbar province and up the Tigris River valley to Mosul. In addition to helping Iraqi forces retake territory, McGurk said the U.S.-led coalition has killed 180 ISIS leaders since the campaign against the militants began more than two years ago.
ISIS overran Mosul in the summer of 2014 and swept across large swaths of the country's north and west. At the height of the group's power in Iraq, ISIS controlled nearly a third of the country.