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Iraq declares victory over ISIS after months-long battle in Mosul

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s office said he was in “liberated” Mosul.

Iraqis celebrate in Tahrir square while holding national flags as they wait for the final announcement of the defeat of the Islamic state militants.
Iraqis celebrate in Tahrir square while holding national flags as they wait for the final announcement of the defeat of the Islamic state militants.
Image: Karim Kadim/AP

IRAQ HAS DECLARED victory against the Islamic State group in Mosul after a gruelling months-long campaign, dealing the biggest defeat yet to the jihadist group.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s office said he was in “liberated” Mosul to congratulate “the heroic fighters and the Iraqi people on the achievement of the major victory,” three years after IS declared its self-styled caliphate from the city.

The fighting did not seem to be completely over, with gunfire and explosions still audible in the city, but Abadi’s arrival had been expected for days as a signal of the formal end of the battle for Mosul.

The victory comes at an enormous cost: much of Iraq’s second city in ruins, thousands dead and wounded, and nearly a million people forced from their homes.

And enormous challenges lie ahead, not just in rebuilding Mosul but in tackling the continued presence elsewhere of IS, which remains a potent force.

Photographs released by his office showed Abadi dressed in a black military uniform and cap, shaking hands with police and army officers.

His office said Abadi held meetings with commanders in Mosul and issued a series of commands on “sustaining victories and eliminating the defeated remnants” of IS, as well as “establishing security and stability in the liberated city.”

‘Victory for all Iraqis’

Iraqi forces celebrated, waving flags and flashing victory signs, after Abadi arrived in the city.

“This victory is for all Iraqis, not just for us,” Mohanned Jassem, a member of the elite Counter-Terrorism Service, told AFP at the police base where Abadi met commanders.

Jassem, who fought in most of the other main battles of the war against IS, said Mosul was the toughest.

“I took part in fighting in Ramadi and Tikrit and Salaheddin and Baiji and Al-Qayara… but the fighting here in (IS’s) stronghold was the most violent,” he said, an Iraqi flag draped over his shoulders.

IS swept across much of Iraq’s Sunni Arab heartland in a lightning offensive in mid-2014, proclaiming a “caliphate” straddling Iraq and neighbouring Syria.

Imposing its strict interpretation of Islamic law, the group committed widespread atrocities and organised or inspired deadly attacks in Iraq, Syria and abroad.

© AFP 2017

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