Iraq’s prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, has declared victory over Islamic Stateforces in Mosul after nearly nine months of bitter fighting to displace the extremist group from the city where it proclaimed its “caliphate”.
Abadi, dressed in black military uniform, travelled to Mosul on Sunday to formally reclaim the devastated city, now a shadow of the thriving hub seized by extremists in 2014.
Thousands have died, nearly a million residents have fled, and swaths of the city have been reduced to ruins during the gruelling campaign, including the ancient al-Nuri mosque and minaret that were one of its best known landmarks.
Mosul - Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a “caliphate” across Iraq and Syria from the historic mosque almost exactly three years ago. Isis forces blew it up last month in the final days of their retreat, apparently to deny Iraqi government forces the chance to hang the national flag from its minaret, a potent symbol of triumph.
Victory in Mosul is still both a strategic and symbolic milestone for Iraqi fighters backed by US-led coalition forces, however, and sparked celebrations across the country, including in Baghdad where proud and relieved Iraqis took to the streets, waving the national flag in exultation.
The city had been the last major urban stronghold Isis held in Iraq, and defeat there pushes the group back towards its insurgent roots, leaving the militants with just a handful of towns and stretches of sparsely populated desert under their control.
Abadi “congratulates the heroic fighters and the Iraqi people on the achievement of the major victory”, his office said in a statement released on Sunday while gunfire and airstrikes were still audible in Mosul