MOSUL: Iraq declared victory against Daesh in Mosul on Sunday after a grueling months-long campaign, dealing the biggest defeat yet to the terrorist 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 Daesh 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 Al-Abadi’s arrival had been expected for days as a signal of the formal end of the battle for Mosul.
The victory came after a brutal 266-day military campaign against Daesh.
The Iraqi success came at an enormous cost: Much of Mosul is in ruins, with thousands dead and wounded, and nearly a million people forced from their homes.
Enormous challenges lie ahead, not just in rebuilding the city but in tackling the continued presence elsewhere of Daesh, which remains a potent force.
Photographs released by his office showed Al-Abadi dressed in a black military uniform and cap, shaking hands with police and army officers.
His office said he held meetings with commanders in Mosul and issued a series of commands on “sustaining victories and eliminating the defeated remnants” of Daesh, as well as “establishing security and stability in the liberated city.”
Iraqi forces celebrated, waving flags and flashing victory signs after Al-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, said at the police base where Al-Abadi met commanders.
Jassem, who fought in most of the other main battles of the war against Daesh, 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 (Daesh’s) stronghold was the most violent,” he said, an Iraqi flag draped over his shoulders.
French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country is a key part of the coalition, was among the first world leaders to offer his congratulations.
“Mosul liberated from Daesh,” he tweeted. “Homage from France to all those, with our troops, who contributed to this victory.”
Dash seized Mosul in the summer of 2014 when it swept across northern and central Iraq.
Iraq launched the operation to retake Mosul in October, backed by airstrikes from the US-led coalition.
Daesh has lost most of the territory it once controlled and after Mosul the coalition is aiming to oust the jihadists from their Syrian stronghold Raqqa, which is under assault by US-backed Arab and Kurdish forces.