Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced “victory” Sunday over the Islamic State group in the city of Mosul, his office said.
“The commander-in-chief of the armed forces (Prime Minister) Haider al-Abadi arrived in the liberated city of Mosul and congratulated the heroic fighters and the Iraqi people for the great victory,” said a statement from his office.
The prime minister’s declaration comes after Lt. Gen. Jassim Nizal of the army’s 9th Division said his forces had achieved “victory” in their sector. His soldiers danced to patriotic music atop tanks even as airstrikes sent plumes of smoke into the sky nearby.
Iraqi forces launched the operation to retake Mosul in October. The Islamic State (IS) group now controls less than one square kilometer of territory in Mosul’s Old City, but is using human shields, suicide bombers and snipers in a fight to the death.
The militants captured Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in a matter of days in the summer of 2014. Nizal acknowledged that many of his men were among those who fled the city at that time, in a humiliating defeat for the country’s armed forces.
“Some things happened here, that’s true,” he said. “But we have come back.”
France-based security analyst Julien Theron told FRANCE 24 that the recapture of Mosul does not translate into a total victory over the IS group.
“What is being done is to undermine the territorial grip that they [IS group] have on the city,” Theron explained.
“But I’m not sure that they won’t remain as some clandestine cell. What happened with al-Qaeda in Iraq is that they actually stayed clandestine and re-formed and became ISIS afterwards, meaning there’s still a lot to do in Iraq and building a proper government that includes the Sunni community is very important now.”
Much of Mosul’s Old City and surrounding areas have been devastated by months of grueling urban combat. On Sunday a line of tired civilians filed out of the Old City on foot, past the carcasses of destroyed apartment blocks lining the cratered roads.
Heba Walid held her sister-in-law’s baby, which was born into war. The parents of the six-month-old, along with 15 other family members, were killed last month when an airstrike hit their home. When Walid ran out of formula, she fed the baby a paste of crushed biscuits mixed with water.
Now they are among more than 897,000 people displaced by the fighting in Mosul.
The loss of the city marks a major defeat for the IS group, which has suffered a series of major setbacks over the past year.
US-backed Syrian forces have pushed into the group’s de facto capital, the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, but a final victory there could be months away, and the extremists still hold several smaller towns and villages across Iraq and Syria.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)
Date created : 2017-07-09