Iraq edged closer to announcing victory against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Mosul after government troops captured the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in the Old City, where the militants' leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his caliphate in 2014.
Haider al-Abadi spoke during a news conference in Baghdad, less than a week after he declared an end to IS's self-styled caliphate after Iraqi forces took back the landmark al-Nuri Mosque in the Old City.
Meanwhile, fighters from the elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) in the Old City have ordered fleeing civilians to remove some articles of clothing in the wake of two bomb attacks, one by a 14-year-old girl and another by a 12-year-old, which killed three soldiers. On Sunday, the U.S. -backed fighters crossed the Euphrates River on the southern edge of the city, completing its encirclement.
The elderly and weak are carried across mounds of rubble in blankets.
His remarks on victory in Mosul came as IS withdrew from a series of villages in Syria's Aleppo province where President Bashar al-Assad's forces are advancing.
There are other Muslim-majority towns that have suffered worse damage than Qaraqosh, and yet, they have already been rebuilt months after ISIS was driven out.
Reaching the Tigris would give Iraqi forces full control over the city and is expected by the end of this week.
Iraqi forces continued to shepherd civilians out of the old city. "They are fleeing from (AE), death, hunger and fear", explained Nazar Salih, a physician from the clinic. "But together with its Syrian holdings IS still occupies an area the size of Belgium", The Economist reported Friday.
Iraqi state television said thousands of people had fled Mosul's densely-populated Old City over the past 24 hours. Those stranded in the fighting are hiding in their basements, fearful of the next onslaught.
Among Iraqi forces, 15 Iraqi police forces were killed and five were wounded in a friendly-fire incident when the US-led coalition's warplanes raided the areas they had advanced on in Mosul.
Salam says: "Seven women faced our units but thank god our units stopped these women suicide bombers".
Iraqi forces launched the operation to retake Mosul, the country's second largest city, in October.
The United Nations estimates that tens of thousands of civilians are still trapped.