IRBIL, Iraq – Islamic State fighters launched a string of counterattacks in a western Mosul neighborhood that had recently been declared free of the militant group, setting off clashes that continued overnight, Iraqi officials said Monday.
By daylight, the situation was calm and the fighting had subsided, according to army spokesman Brig. Gen. Mohammed al-Khodari.
The attacks came as Iraqi forces continue to move in on the last pocket of territory the IS militants hold in the neighborhood known as the Old City.
Al-Khodari told The Associated Press that IS sleeper cells set fire to houses and cars on Sunday afternoon in the Tanak neighborhood on Mosul's far western edge. The area was declared fully liberated in early May.
"This is in line with tactics we have seen previously in Samarra (and) Anbar," he said. Both the Iraqi city of Samarra and the western province of Anbar had been liberated of IS militants last year but have seen occasional counter-attacks by the extremist group.
"When they sense defeat somewhere, they counterattack somewhere else to draw away attention and to show that they are still strong," said al-Khodari. "This attack shows that they will soon be defeated in Mosul."
Earlier this month, IS launched a large-scale counterattack in Mosul that underscored the extremist group's resilience in the city despite months of heavy fighting with Iraqi forces backed by U.S. air power.
The June 14 assault was carried out by more than 100 IS militants and killed 11 Iraqi policemen and four civilians in clashes that lasted hours.
Iraqi forces launched an operation to retake Mosul's Old City — the IS group's last stronghold there — just over a week ago, more than eight months after the fight to retake Iraq's second-largest city officially began.
Associated Press writer Salar Salim in Irbil, Iraq, contributed to this report.