More than 5,200 bodies have been retrieved during the past months buried under debris of the devastated buildings in Iraq's Mosul city, officials said.
"The total number of bodies retrieved during the past months reached 5,228, including 2,658 civilians and 2,570 bodies for the Islamic State," Layth Zaini, from Mosul municipality, told Xinhua.
"Today (Thursday), we have retrieved six bodies for unidentified people from under debris in Shwan neighborhood in the old city centre, which we believe that there are 500 to 700 more bodies under the debris," Zaini said.
The bodies of the Islamic State (IS) militants will be buried in a separate cemetery after being identified, according to Zaini.
Zaini blamed the lack of specific machines for digging for the slow work, as all the buildings are badly demolished and some were levelled.
For his part, Lt. Col. Rabie Ibrahim, deputy head of Mosul civil defence, told Xinhua that the number of bodies for civilians retrieved in the old city centre reached 2,654 during the past months.
The bodies were badly decomposed being left for more than ten months since the last battles against the extremist IS militants in the city.
Mosul's old city centre witnessed heavy fighting as the troops were forced to make slow progress due to the stiff resistance of the IS and a large number of roadside bombs and booby-trapped buildings, in addition to the IS snipers taking positions in the buildings and narrow alleys of heavily-populated neighbourhoods, where thousands of civilians were still living under IS rule.
The retrieved bodies were said to be for IS militants, their family members or the civilians prevented by IS militants from leaving homes during the fierce battles and heavy bombardment of the city, according to the defence police.
In July 2017, Abadi officially declared the liberation of Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, from the IS after nearly nine months of fierce fighting to dislodge the extremist militants from their last major stronghold in the country.
A large part of Iraq's northern province of Nineveh, including its capital Mosul, fell under the IS control in June 2014, when government forces abandoned their weapons and fled, enabling IS militants to take control of parts of Iraq's northern and western regions.