The Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said in a few days, there will be an announcement that the “liberation” of the city of Mosul has been achieved from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL – also known as ISIS).

Abadi spoke to the media on Thursday, and his statements were carried by Baghdad-based Sumaria TV. “It’s a matter of a few days and we will announce the total liberation of Mosul,” Abadi said.

The announcement came as Iraqi forces were continuing the fight against ISIL fighters in their last stronghold in western Mosul, the city’s old town.

The armed group has lost much of their territory over the last three years, and Mosul is their last urban bastion in Iraq.

The group’s fighters are expected to make their last stand in the Old City – a densely populated quarter with narrow, winding alleys.

Up to 150,000 civilians are believed to be trapped in there, where conditions have been described by the UN as desperate.

The fight for Mosul has now lasted for more than eight months.

On Wednesday, ISIL fighters blew up Nuri mosque as Iraqi forces advanced on the ancient religious compound in the embattled northern city.

Officials from Iraq and the US-led anti-ISIL coalition said the destruction of the site was a sign of the ISIL’s imminent loss of Mosul, with Iraqi Prime Minister al-Abadi calling it an “official declaration of defeat”.

The loss of the iconic 12th century minaret – one of the country’s most recognisable monuments sometimes referred to as Iraq’s Tower of Pisa – left the country in shock.

The fighting for Mosul has been bloody and has been drawing out for the past eight months. “Daesh’s bombing of the al-Hadba Minaret and the al-Nuri mosque is a formal declaration of their defeat,” Abadi said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

This is the same minaret where the Islamic State announced Mosul as its caliphate in Iraq just a few years ago.

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Photos courtesy Reuters