MOSUL, Iraq, July 10, (AFP): Iraqi forces fought to eliminate the last pockets of Islamic State group resistance in Mosul on Monday after the premier visited the devastated city to congratulate troops on securing victory. With the jihadists surrounded in a sliver of territory in Mosul’s Old City, attention was turning to the huge task of rebuilding the city and of helping civilians, with aid groups warning that Iraq’s humanitarian crisis was far from over. Prime Minister Haider al- Abadi visited Mosul on Sunday and hailed Iraq’s “heroic fighting forces” after months of difficult battles that have left much of the city in ruins.
The Old City in particular has been devastated, with many buildings reduced to little more than concrete shells and rubble littering the streets. Soldiers armed with machineguns and sniper rifles fired from atop ruined structures in the Old City on Monday, and air strikes sent plumes of smoke rising over Mosul’s historic centre.
A senior commander said on Monday that Iraqi forces were engaged in “heavy” fighting with the remnants of jihadist forces, but that the battle was near its end. Lieutenant General Sami al-Aridhi of Iraq’s elite Counter-Terrorism Service said the jihadists had been reduced to an area of the Old City of about 200 by 100 metres (yards). “They do not accept to surrender,” Aridhi told AFP. But “operations are in their final stages,” and “it is likely that (the fighting) will end today”, Aridhi said. Aridhi said his forces had information that there were between 3,000 and 4,000 civilians in the area but that could not be independently confirmed. Upon his arrival in the city the day before, Abadi’s office said he was visiting “liberated” Mosul to congratulate troops on a “major victory”.
Iran has congratulated Iraq on its declared victory over the Islamic State jihadist group in Mosul and offered its help to rebuild the devastated country. “Congratulations to brave people and Government of Iraq upon liberation of Mosul,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote late Sunday in a tweet. “When Iraqis join hands, no limits to what they can achieve.” Other Iranian officials were also quick to welcome the victory, Iraq’s biggest yet against the jihadists. It was a “great achievement in the path to ending the presence and savage actions of the criminal DAESH (IS) group against the Iraqi nation”, said Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, in messages to Abadi and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country’s most revered cleric. “The government, armed forces and the brave nation of Islamic Iran … are prepared to offer aid to the displaced and injured in the war and help rebuild the cities and vital infrastructure in the country,” official news agency IRNA quoted Shamkhani as saying.