Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi declared victory over ‘brutality and terrorism’ in Mosul announcing his forces had ended Daish’s rule over the country’s second city even as Daish captured most of a village south of Mosul.
Standing with members of the security forces, Abadi hailed the retaking of Mosul as a key moment in the war against terrorism.
“Our victory today is a victory over darkness, a victory over brutality and terrorism, and I announce here… to the whole world today the end and failure and collapse of the mythical terrorist Daish,” Abadi said in a televised address from west Mosul.
“These operations were carried out by Iraqi planning and success and implementation,” Abadi said, while also thanking “all the countries that stood with Iraq in its war against terrorism.”
Dozens of members of the security forces erupted into cheers after he spoke, dancing and waving flags and their weapons as they celebrated.
The US-led coalition that backed the Mosul offensive and is supporting another assault on Daish’s Syrian bastion Raqa hailed the victory, but warned it did not mark the end of the war against the radicals.
“This victory alone does not eliminate (Daish) 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,” said Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, the commander of the international anti-Daish operation.
“Now it is time for all Iraqis to unite to ensure (Daish) is defeated across the rest of Iraq,” Townsend said.
US President Donald Trump also praised the victory, saying it was a signal that Daish’s“days in Iraq and Syria are numbered”.
But rebuilding the shattered city of Mosul and helping civilians will be a huge task, and aid groups warn that Iraq’s humanitarian crisis is far from over.
Mosul’s Old City in particular has been devastated, with many buildings reduced to little more than concrete shells and rubble littering the streets.
Abadi said that as well as continuing to tackle Daish, Iraq had other challenges including “the mission of stabilisation and the mission of building”.
Meanwhile, Daish, armed with machine guns and mortars, have now seized more than 75 per cent of Imam Gharbi, a village on the western bank of the Tigris river some 70km south of Mosul, and reinforcements are expected, the Iraqi army officer said.
Daish launched its attack on Imam Gharbi last week, in the kind of strike it is expected to deploy now as US-backed Iraqi forces regain control over cities the group captured during its shock 2014 offensive.
Mosul resident Hind Mahmoud said by telephone that she had heard exchanges of gunfire in the Old City and seen an Iraqi army helicopter firing on Daish on Tuesday.
Stripped of Mosul, Daish’s dominion in Iraq will be reduced to mainly rural, desert areas west and south of the city.
Iraqi forces launched their campaign in October to retake Mosul, which was seized by the radicals during the mid-2014 offensive that saw them take control of large parts of Iraq and Syria.