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Mosul celebrates first Eid without Islamic State in years

The explosion destroyed another piece of priceless Iraqi cultural heritage but also sent a strong message to USA -led coalition forces and Iraqi troops closing in on the last stronghold of IS, in Mosul’s Old City neighborhood.Footage obtained by AP showed Iraqi forces pushing into the Bab al-Beed neighborhood in Mosul’s Old City-the last IS stronghold in what appears to be the final major Iraqi battle.Iraqi and the US-led coalition forces freed its the eastern part in late January 2017, with fighting is now ongoing to complete the liberation.The Islamist extremists seized the northern Iraqi city, the country’s second largest, in 2014.Aid organizations and Iraqi authorities say Islamic State was trying to prevent civilians from leaving so as to use them as human shields.With the Iraqi advance, some in Mosul celebrated the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, with children playing in squares on the eastern side of the city that had been liberated months ago. “We give them indications by loudspeaker when it’s possible”, an Iraqi military spokesman told Reuters.Eid prayers were allowed under Islamic State but festivities were not.Located just west of the provincial capital Ramadi, Anbar’s Al-Baghdadi district – which continues to see sporadic attacks by the embattled Daesh terrorist group – is now under the control of Iraqi security forces and local tribal volunteers.The government of Iraq announced the destruction of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in western Mosul by ISIS terrorists on Wednesday, June 21.According to Abdelghani al-Assadi, a top commander in the Counter-Terrorism Service that has spearheaded the fighting against IS since 2014, around 8,000 people have managed to flee the Old City since an assault was launched on June 18.The Iraqi military is now engaged in a months-long campaign to recapture western Mosul, IS’s last stronghold in northern Iraq.Baghdadi fled into the desert expanse extending across Iraq and Syria in the early phase of the Mosul offensive, leaving the fighting there to local IS commanders, according to USA and Iraqi officials.The demolition of the mosque follows reports that al-Baghdadi himself was “highly likely” killed by a Russian strike in the suburb of Syrian Raqqa in May.By Saturday, the area still under Isis control was less than two square kilometres (0.77 sq miles), skirting the western bank of the Tigris River that bisects Mosul.The battle for the city is expected to end soon.The clashes resulted in the killing of two Iraqi soldiers and all the attackers, who were either shot dead or killed after detonating their explosive belts, the source said.The U.S. -led coalition rejected the ISIL claim.