Iraqi forces clashed with Daish rebels holding out in Mosul’s Old City on Wednesday, more than 36 hours after Baghdad declared victory over the radicals as a senior US general said he saw no major reduction in US troop numbers after the fall of the city.
Civilian activity has quickly returned to much of Mosul and work is underway to repair damaged homes and infrastructure, something the United Nations estimates will initially cost more than $1 billion.
Newly trained local police are deployed in Mosul alongside the military, but authorities have not prepared a post-battle plan for governance and security in the city, officials say.
Iraqi forces exchanged gunfire with the militants in their final Mosul redoubt just before midnight and through the day on Wednesday, three residents living just across the Tigris River from the area told Reuters.
Army helicopters strafed the Old City and columns of smoke rose into the air, though it was unclear if these came from controlled explosions or bombs set off by Daish, the residents said by phone.
“We still live in an atmosphere of war despite the victory announcement two days ago,” said Fahd Ghanim, 45. Another resident said the blasts shook the ground around half a kilometre away.
An Iraqi military official attributed the activity to “clearing operations”.
“Daish is hiding in different places,” he said. “They disappear here and pop up there, then we target them.”
Media access to the area has been heavily restricted since Abadi claimed victory on Monday, hailing “the collapse of the terrorist state”.
Footage released by Daish news agency Amaq entitled “Fighting till the last gasp” and allegedly filmed in Mosul’s Maydan district showed militants mixed in with civilians and unidentified corpses lying amid the rubble of an urban battlefield.
On Tuesday, Amnesty International cited a reliance on weapons it said had only crude targeting capabilities.
The coalition strongly rejected the charges, and Abadi, without mentioning Amnesty, said in a statement on Wednesday that rights groups should check their sources.
“There are bypassed holdouts. We haven’t cleared every building in this city the size of Philadelphia. That’s going to have to be done, and there are also hidden IEDs (improvised explosive devices),” Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend told reporters. “There are still going to be losses from the Iraqi security forces as they continue to secure Mosul.”
The coalition said it had conducted three air strikes on Daish in the Mosul area on Tuesday, targeting militants, machine-gun emplacements and rocket-propelled grenade systems.