Iraqi troops claim victory over ISIS in ruined Mosul

10 July 2017

Iraq's armed forces on Sunday celebrated victory over the Islamic State, marking the formal lifting of nine-month-old siege by the Islamic terrorists that had left much of Iraq's second-largest city in ruins, killed thousands of people and displaced nearly a million.

Dressed in a military uniform, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi reached Mosul on Sunday to congratulate troops who were reported to be still mopping up the last pockets of resistance.

There were apprehensions that the Iraqi forces could still be facing suicide bombers and guerrilla attacks for weeks even as the military began securing the last alleyways of the old city from Islamic State.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's dream of building a caliphate may be over for now, but Mosul is still not free from dangers as there could be ISIS sleeper cells, suicide bombers and even mine traps. And, with the whole city in ruins, it is unlikely that civilians can return and normalcy be restored.

The Islamic State no longer controls significant territory in Iraq where it can harbor foreign fighters or exploit resources, like oil and its core narrative - building an actual state - is in tatters. But it is far too soon to feel comfortable, especially in the absence of a strategy for the day after Daesh.

The Iraqi state is not secure yet as the ISIS still holds on to vast tracks of Iraq, including other cities and towns in the country.

''It's going to continue to be hard every day,'' reports quoting Col Pat Work, the commanding officer of the Second Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, which is carrying out the American advisory effort.

''Iraqi security forces need to be on the top of their game, and we need to be over their shoulder helping them as they move through this transition to consolidate gains and really sink their hold in on the west side,'' Colonel Work said as he rolled through the streets of west Mosul recently in an armored vehicle. ''ISIS will challenge this.''

While more than 30 per cent of the eastern part of the old city is in ruins, Western Mosul, especially its historic relics, where the Islamic State made its last stand, is in ruins.

The ISIS denied the Iraqis real victory when they wiped out the Grand al-Nuri Mosque and its distinctive leaning minaret from the skyline in a recent act of barbarity when they packed it with explosives and brought it down as government troops approached.

The war may be over in Mosul, but 676,000 of those who left the western half of the city have yet to come back, according to United Nations data.

Victory also came at great cost, with about a thousand deaths among the Iraqi security forces, many hundreds of civilians killed, some inadvertently by American airstrikes.

At least seven journalists were killed, including two French correspondents and their fixer, an Iraqi Kurdish journalist, in a mine explosion in recent weeks.

As Maj Gen Sami al-Aradi, a commander of Iraq's special forces, said the forces have been fighting for each meter, literally. And it took almost nine months to end the war.

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