Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has announced the end of the self-declared Caliphate of the Islamic State (IS/ISIS) in the long-besieged Middle-eastern country.
The Iraqi Army, aided by Kurdish militias and international forces, marked the end of eight months of the gruelling war effort to retake the city of Mosul, which, after falling to ISIS in June 2014, served as the terror group’s de facto capital in Iraq.
While a few hundred militants remain in a few neighbourhoods, the city is expected to be rid of ISIS fighters in the next few days.
At the same time, over 15,000 noncombatants (according to the United Nations, the number could be as high as 50,000) are trapped in the Old City neighbourhood. Rescuing them and ridding the city of bombs and mines will prove to be a herculean task for coalition forces in the coming days. However, the city is back in Iraqi control.
We are seeing the end of the fake Daesh state, the liberation of Mosul proves that. We will not relent, our brave forces will bring victory
— Haider Al-Abadi (@HaiderAlAbadi) June 29, 2017
The seizure of the nearly 850-year-old Grand al-Nuri Mosque was from where the Islamic State (also known as Daesh) proclaimed its “Caliphate” nearly three years ago. When opposition forces recaptured the mosque, it served as a telling symbolic victory for the conflict-plagued nation.
“The return of al-Nuri Mosque and al-Hadba minaret to the fold of the nation marks the end of the Daesh state of falsehood,” Prime Minister al-Abadi said in a statement. “We will continue chasing ISIS until we kill and arrest [every] last one of them.”
The Battle of Mosul has claimed the lives of over 10,000 civilians and displaced over 8,00,000. The Iraqi Civil War itself has claimed the lives of at least 50,000 since 2014 and has displaced over 4 million Iraqis, enabling the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War.
ISIS regime in Iraq to finally end
Yahya Rasool, the spokesperson for Iraq’s Joint Command told Kurdish media network Rudaw on Thursday that “militarily” ISIS has been defeated in the entire Mosul. He said that there are still tens of ISIS militants in small places of Old Mosul.
He called on the Iraqi people to “celebrate” the end of the extremist group in the city.
Families covered in dust huddled in the shade of half-destroyed storefronts waiting for flatbed trucks to move them to camps.
“We saw so many bodies stuck under the rubble as we fled,” said Muhammed Hamoud who escaped the Old City with his wife and two children. “One man was still alive. He yelled for us to help him. We were able to dig him out, but he was so badly injured we had to leave him. We couldn’t carry him with us.”
Since ISIS took the Mosul, over half the pre-war population has fled the ancient city.
Raqqa, Syria also en route to being liberated
Reuters reports that the Islamic State’s stronghold in Syria, Raqqa, is also close to falling.
A US-backed Kurdish-led coalition besieging Raqqa on Thursday, fully encircled it after closing the ISIS militants’ last way out from the south, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.
These setbacks have reduced Islamic State’s territory by 60% from its peak two years ago and its revenue by 80%, to just $16 million a month, said IHS Markit.
“Their fictitious state has fallen,” spokesman Yahya Rasool told state TV.
ISIS remains a force in Syria
Jubilant as the world is at the fall of the Islamic State in Iraq, it should not be forgotten that the group still holds powerful sway in neighbouring Syria. It commands a region as big as Belgium and the threat of lone wolf extremists blowing themselves up or planting bombs in other parts of the world remains a major concern.
At the same time, the terror group has made inroads in the Philippines, with the city of Marawi battling an escalation of militants and brutality since May.
The war against ISIS scored a major victory on 29 June 2017. However, the war is not over.