MOSUL (Iraq) • Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived in Mosul yesterday and congratulated his armed forces for their "victory" over ISIS after eight months of urban warfare, bringing an end to three years of militant rule in the city.
The battle has left large parts of Mosul in ruins, killed thousands of civilians and displaced nearly one million people.
"The commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Haider al-Abadi, arrived in the liberated city of Mosul and congratulated the heroic fighters and Iraqi people for the great victory," his office said in a statement.
But the fighting, backed by a United States-led coalition, did not seem to be completely over yet, with gunfire still audible and air strikes hitting the city around the time the statement was released.
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) vowed to "fight to the death", but an Iraqi military spokesman, Brigadier-General Yahya Rasool, told state TV earlier yesterday that 30 militants had been killed attempting to escape by swimming across the River Tigris that bisects the city.
Cornered in a shrinking area, ISIS militants had resorted to sending out women suicide bombers among the thousands of wounded, malnourished and fearful civilians emerging from the battlefield.
Retaking Mosul marks a major blow against ISIS, which is also under siege in the Syrian stronghold of Raqqa. The group has lost much of its territory spanning north-eastern Syria and north-western Iraq. But while its ability to attract foreign fighters has been dented, it continues to inspire militants abroad, who have staged terrorist attacks from London to Teheran. Experts expect the militants to revert to insurgent tactics as they lose territory.
For Mr Abadi, whose government has struggled to overcome political and sectarian challenges and rebuild an economy stripped of oil revenue, it is a major success. But the battle for Mosul has exacted a heavy toll on Iraq's security forces.
Lieutenant-General Stephen Townsend, commander of the coalition, has described it as the toughest urban warfare he has seen in 34 years of service. The Iraqi government does not reveal casualty figures, but a funding request from the US Department of Defence said the elite Counter Terrorism Service, which spearheaded the fight in Mosul, has suffered 40 per cent losses.
The United Nations predicts it will cost more than US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) to repair basic infrastructure in Mosul.
In some of the worst affected areas, almost no buildings appear to have escaped damage.
REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
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