US coalition and Iraqi prime minister declare victory in Mosul

US coalition and Iraqi prime minister declare victory in Mosul
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Iraqi forces, backed by the U.S.-led coalition, have retaken all of Mosul, once the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria's (ISIS) stronghold in the country, the U.S.-led coalition and Iraq’s prime minister said Monday.

"I announce from here the end and the failure and the collapse of the terrorist state of falsehood and terrorism which the terrorist Daesh announced from Mosul," Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a speech on state television, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.

Al-Abadi traveled to Mosul on Sunday to celebrate the defeat of ISIS, but stopped short of declaring victory until Monday. Skirmishes between government forces and ISIS continued in the area during Sunday's visit.

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The loss of Mosul is major to blow to ISIS. It effectively ends the Iraqi portion of its so-called caliphate, though the group still holds some pockets of land in the country.

U.S. officials have also repeatedly warned that when the group loses its land it will still operate as a traditional terrorist insurgency and continue to plot and carry out attacks.

ISIS seized Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, when it swept through the country in 2014. That July, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the formation of a self-styled caliphate from the pulpit of Mosul’s Great Mosque of al-Nuri.

Iraqi forces and the U.S.-led coalition have been battling to rout the terrorist group form the city since October. 

The eastern portion of the city, which is bisected by the Tigris River, was declared fully liberated in January. But the western portion, much more densely packed, proved tougher to take back.

In his speech, al-Abadi cautioned that more work lies ahead.

“We have another mission ahead of us, to create stability, to build and clear Daesh cells and that requires an intelligence and security effort, and the unity which enabled us to fight Daesh," he said.

U.S. forces congratulated the Iraqis on the victory Monday, though cautioned the city still needs to be cleared of explosives and possible ISIS fighters in hiding.

Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of the coalition, likewise reiterated that victory in Mosul does not end the fight against ISIS.

“The global coalition fighting ISIS congratulates Prime Minister al-Abadi and the Iraqi Security Forces on their historic victory against a brutal and evil enemy,” Townsend said in a statement. “Make no mistake, this victory alone does not eliminate ISIS, and there is still a tough fight ahead. But the loss of one of its twin capitals and a jewel of their so-called caliphate is a decisive blow.”

Townsend added that the Iraqi militia forces, Kurdish peshmerga forces and the coalition deserve to celebrate the victory.

“Mosul would have been a challenging fight for any army, and the coalition is proud to stand side-by-side with our Iraqi partners as they celebrate their hard-fought victory,” he said. “A victory that has cost the lives of many brave Iraqis; soldiers, police and civilians. People of all ethnicities and sects have suffered and sacrificed together, not only for their own country, but to help provide security to the region and the world.”

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees warned Monday that there’s “no end in sight” for the humanitarian crisis in Mosul despite the end of the battle.

“Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced; many have lost relatives, their homes and have been injured,” UNHCR said in a statement. “It is likely that many thousands of people may have to remain in displacement for months to come.

“Many have nothing to go back to, due to extensive damage caused during the conflict, while key basic services, such as water, electricity and other key infrastructure, including schools and hospitals, will need to be rebuilt or repaired. Rebuilding is likely to be slow and costly but is essential to achieve stability and end the cycle of conflict.”