Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi congratulated soldiers in Mosul on Sunday and declared victory over the Islamic State. The announcement formally brings nine months of fighting to a close and signals the recapture of the largest city held by ISIS. But it is far from an end to fighting against the militants. Even on the edges of the city, Reuters reported that gunfire and mortar shells could be heard while Abadi gave his statement, a reminder that it will still be some time before ISIS is completely removed from the city, and even longer from the country.
Abad was dressed in the black military uniform of the country’s elite Counterterrorism Service, and for a moment troops draped the Iraqi flag over his shoulders. He was quoted by local media saying that he “congratulates the heroic fighters and the people on the big victory.”
PM Al-Abadi arrives in Mosul to announce its liberation and congratulate the armed forces and Iraqi people on this victory pic.twitter.com/bUtkj7z88A— Haider Al-Abadi (@HaiderAlAbadi) July 9, 2017
ISIS militants took Mosul three years ago. Their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, stood at the top of the city’s historic al-Nuri Mosque and declared a caliphate. Mosul was the most significant victory for the terrorist organization, and the group would go on to claim swaths of land that crossed the borders of Iraq and Syria. More than 2 million people lived in Mosul alone, and under ISIS residents saw regular executions, torture for men who did not wear their beards long in accordance with strict Islamic law, and women taken as sex slaves for fighters.