Although only a symbolic landmark, the Iraqi government has captured a destroyed mosque in the heart of ISIS’ de facto capital of Mosul. Iraq’s government declared victory over ISIS on Thursday.
The eight-month siege of Mosul by Iraqi troops, who have been fighting their way through Mosul have seized the Grand al-Nuri Mosque on Wednesday. That was considered the heart of the Daesh (Iraqi term for ISIS) caliphate.
US coalition sources believe that the fighting for Mosul will be over in days now rather than weeks.
Though destroyed by ISIS fighters, the capture of the 850-year-old mosque is considered a huge symbolic victory to Iraqis. It is where the Islamic State announced its caliphate almost three years ago.
“The return of Nuri mosque and minaret of Hadba today after being [destroyed] by ISIS marks the end of Daesh State falsehood,” Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement, using the Arabic acronym for the terror group. “We will continue chasing ISIS until we kill and arrest [every] last one of them.”
While the Iraqi government appears assured of its victory, there is still fighting in areas of Mosul populated by civilians. Between 15,000 and 20,000 noncombatants are trapped in the Old Mosul neighborhood, which still needs to be cleared, according to Joint Operation Command spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Rasool.
“Iraqi forces have liberated the Nuri mosque and advanced in the depth of Old Mosul neighborhood,” Rasool said.
ISIS now controls less than a square mile inside of Mosul, but there were indications of forward momentum inside the city.
About 300 ISIS fighters remained in the Old City, according to the Associated Press.
ISIS controls a small, densely populated area west of the city. And as many as 2500 ISIS fighters remain in the Syrian city of Raqqa. But while the capture of the Nuri mosque is largely symbolic, the ISIS stronghold of Mosul is now almost completely back in Iraqi government control.
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Photo courtesy DOD