Reuters TIKRIT, Iraq (Reuters) — The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militant group has captured most of a village south of Mosul despite losing control of its stronghold in the city, an Iraqi army officer and residents said, deploying guerrilla-style tactics as its self-proclaimed caliphate crumbles.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over ISIL in Mosul on Monday, marking the biggest defeat for the hard-line Sunni group since its lightning sweep through northern Iraq three years ago.
But the militants, armed with machine guns and mortars, have now seized more than 75 percent of Imam Gharbi, a village on the western bank of the Tigris river some 70 kilometers south of Mosul, and reinforcements are expected, the Iraqi army officer said.
ISIL launched its attack on Imam Gharbi last week, in the kind of strike it is expected to deploy now as U.S.-backed Iraqi forces regain control over cities the group captured during its shock 2014 offensive.
Mosul resident Hind Mahmoud said by telephone that she had heard exchanges of gunfire in the Old City and seen an Iraqi army helicopter firing on ISIL militants on Tuesday.
The top U.S. general in Iraq said that security forces would still need to clear ISIL hideouts in Mosul, where as many as a couple of hundred fighters could remain, and would rest before fighting against the group in Tal Afar.
Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend told a news briefing in Washington that some ISIL militants in Mosul had offered to surrender.
In one instance yesterday, Townsend said, an ISIL commander had told Iraqi forces that a group of fighters were willing to surrender. However, the militants wanted to surrender as a large group, which was rejected by Iraqi forces who believed it could be a trap.
“We saw then later in the day, a wave of suicide attacks come out and we assess that was actually a ploy, a desperate ploy by an ISIS [ISIL] leader to actually get the Iraqi security force to allow a large group of fighters to come out and allow them to get close before they sprung an attack,” Townsend said.