Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi is declaring victory in Mosul, saying that the city where ISIS declared its “caliphate” three years ago has finally been liberated. Fighting is still being reported in part of the northern city on the Tigris River.
“They’re now in one particular neighborhood, where the last pockets of ISIS fighters are fighting very hard. It’s really their last stand,” NPR’s Jane Arraf reports from Mosul. “The problem is, there are civilians among them, still at least 2,000 civilians.”
Jane says she’s been seeing families who are returning to newly reclaimed areas, walking to the safety provided by the military.
“They looked exhausted,” she said. “They’re tired, they’re hungry, they’re thirsty. It’s been a very tough nine months, but according to the military, fast coming to a close.”
Abadi arrived in Mosul as the final push to take control seemed to have worked on Sunday. Dressed in black military fatigues and a black cap, he toured the area and congratulated troops, shaking hands with rows of soldiers.
Troops are still dealing with explosives and mines in the city, Abadi’s office says. The prime minister says officials will now work to restore services and infrastructure, stressing the importance of allowing residents to return to normal lives.
As the takeover was announced, UNICEF’s chapter in Iraq posted a tweet stating, “Children’s needs remain acute,” both inside the city and in nearby camps where civilians have sought refuge from warfare.
The current push to retake Mosul began last October, when pro-government forces — from the Iraqi Security Forces to Peshmerga fighters and militias — began massing near the city. The U.S. and its allies have been providing advisers, including Green Berets, in addition to airstrikes in support of the effort.
Mosul has played a key role in ISIS becoming a legitimate threat in the region and drawing recruits from abroad. It was there that, in July of 2014, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made a rare public appearance to pronounce the group’s “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria at the site of the 12th century Great Mosque of al-Nuri.
The mosque and its distinctive minaret were destroyed last month, in an explosion that ISIS attempted to blame on a U.S. airstrike — an account disputed not only by Iraqi and U.S. officials but by video recordings.