Mosul battle reaching final stages, says Iraqi PM
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the government offensive to recapture the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants was in its final stages.
Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday night, he warned the militants that they must surrender or be killed.
Since launching the offensive in October, government forces have driven IS from eastern Mosul and are now making advances in the western sector.
The city on the Tigris river is the last urban stronghold in Iraq of the militants, who declared a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria after they captured it in 2014.
"The battle now is in the final stages. Daesh become day after day surrounded inside a tight area and they are in their final days," Abadi said, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.
He also pledged to treat the families of IS fighters fairly.
"Let me be very clear, we will preserve families of Daesh who are civilians, but we will punish the terrorists and bring them to justice if they surrender," he said.
"They are cornered and if they will not surrender they will definitely get killed."
Abadi said he would visit Washington next week and meet US President Donald Trump to discuss the war. The United States is providing air and artillery support in the offensive.
Meanwhile, nearly 100,000 Iraqis have fled during the battle to retake west Mosul from IS, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Wednesday.
Iraqi forces launched a major push last month to recapture west Mosul, which is the most populated urban area still held by IS, with an estimated 750,000 residents when the battle began.
Between 25 February and 15 March, more than 97,000 people have been displaced from west Mosul, the IOM said on its official Twitter account.
It marks an increase of around 17,000 from the displacement figure the IOM released the previous day, though this does not necessarily indicate that all of those additional people fled in the past 24 hours.
IS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces backed by US-led air strikes have since retaken most of the territory they lost.
Iraqi forces launched the operation to recapture Mosul from IS in October, retaking its east before setting their sights on its smaller but more densely populated west.
According to the IOM, more than 238,000 people are currently displaced due to fighting in the Mosul area, while more fled but later returned to their homes.