Islamic State fighters inside the jihadist group's Iraqi stronghold of Mosul are "weakening" and showing signs of frustration ahead of a battle to recapture the city, a US military official said Wednesday.
Iraqi and Kurdish forces, backed by US-led coalition trainers and air power, have for months been edging toward Mosul, Iraq's second city and home to two million people. The Islamic State group has controlled it since June 2014.
"We see them weakening inside Mosul," said Colonel Chris Garver, a coalition spokesman. "We do see some indications that morale is lower."
For instance, senior commanders are executing subordinates for "failure on the battlefield," Garver said, adding that IS leaders are "not happy with where they are in Mosul."
Members of the Iraqi police forces sit outside a building in the city of Fallujah on June 30, 2016 after they recaptured the city from Islamic State group jihadists.
Jihadists, concerned that city residents are communicating with Iraqi security forces, have started cutting off internet access.
The same thing happened in Fallujah and Ramadi before each of those cities was recaptured, Garver said.
Still, he cautioned, the eventual fight for Mosul -- which is expected to begin in the coming months -- will not be easy.
"We still anticipate that somewhere between 5,000 or so fighters are inside Mosul," Garver said. "We're still anticipating a tough fight."