Relieved but wary, Iraqis see last hour for ISIS in Mosul
London- Iraq has announced the end of the caliphate of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Mosul and vowed to declare total victory against militants in the city within the “next few days” as fighting continued to rage.
“We are seeing the end of the fake Daesh state. The liberation of Mosul proves that,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Twitter, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS. “We will not relent. Our brave forces will bring victory.”
Inside Mosul, Iraqi Staff Lieutenant-General Abdul Ghani al-Assadi told Agence France-Presse: “In the next few days, we will announce the final victory over Daesh,” which he estimated to have 200-300 mainly foreign fighters left in the city.
At the Pentagon, US-led coalition spokesman US Army Colonel Ryan Dillon said “imminent” victory was expected “in days rather than weeks.” Dillon warned that “the Old City still remains a difficult, dense, suffocating fight — tight alleyways with booby traps, civilians, and (ISIS) fighters around every corner.”
ISIS captured Mosul in June 2014 and Iraqi forces embarked on a US-backed military mission to liberate the city last October.
On June 29, Iraqi forces captured the iconic Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul’s Old City, where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the group’s caliphate three years ago. The mosque and its renowned minaret were destroyed by ISIS, Iraqi officials said, but the militants blamed US air strikes.
“It was the last icon for the historic city of Mosul and a valuable symbol,” Amir al-Jumaili, a professor at the Archaeology College in Mosul, told the Associated Press (AP).
“The minaret was built with seven bands of decorative brickwork in complex geometric patterns also found in Persia and Central Asia. Its tilt and the lack of maintenance made it particularly vulnerable to blasts,” Reuters reported.
There are increasing concerns that ISIS won’t let go of its last pockets of resistance without incurring heavy civilian casualties. The group is known for its disregard for the most basic of human rights and for using civilians as human shields.
There are also fears over the fate of civilians killed by Iraqi or US-led coalition fire.
While Iraqi special forces Major Dhia Thamir told the AP that the “hundreds of bodies under the rubble… are all Daesh,” Iraqi Major-General Sami al-Aridi acknowledged that civilians had been killed by air strikes and artillery. “Of course there is collateral damage. It is always this way in war,” he told the AP. “The houses are very old, so any bombardment causes them to collapse completely.”
The United Nations urged the Iraqi government to halt the “forced evictions” of families suspected of having ties to ISIS. The families had received threatening letters giving them a deadline for leaving.
“We urge the Iraqi government to take action to halt such imminent evictions or any type of collective punishment and to reinforce the formal justice system to bring perpetrators to justice,” UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a news briefing in Geneva.
There have been many reprisal attacks, which include torture and summary executions, by government-sanctioned militias against people suspected of having ties to ISIS.
Reining in tribal revenge mentality as well as sectarian and ethnically linked attacks is expected to be Iraq’s main challenge in the coming months. ISIS has footholds in small areas in al-Anbar province and the group’s appeal thrives on sectarian and ethnic sentiments.
Another consistent oxygen provider to the flame of such groups has been the poor living conditions for many Iraqis, especially in the Sunni-majority areas. The reconstruction of those areas, as well as the development of Iraq remain a challenge, especially when considering allegations of corruption that have been levelled against Iraqi officials since 2003.
Corruption has not only harmed the country’s internal stability but it makes the task of the government of Iraq, an oil-rich country, even harder as it seeks investment from beyond its borders.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al- Abadi concluded a 3-day tour of Saudi Arabia, Iran and Kuwait. This was touted as part of an Iraqi effort to boost ties with its neighbours, which should help with the country’s reconstruction. However, despite statements of goodwill, there were hardly any tangible deals announced.
On the day Abadi returned to Iraq, Iraqi Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri met with the British Ambassador to Baghdad Frank Baker and asked for British support for Iraq’s displaced people and reconstruction efforts.
The trend of looking for foreign financial support is expected to continue as the need for money to solve many of Iraq’s woes has never been more pressing.