Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has formally declared victory over the Islamic State of the Iraq and Levant (ISIL) in Mosul.
“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,” Abadi said on Monday evening, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.
Abadi made the announcement from the operations room of the Counter-Terrorism Service, his media office said on Twitter.
The US-led coalition that backed Iraq in the battle for Mosul said Iraqi troops have firm control of the city, but some areas still must be cleared of explosive devices and possible ISIL fighters.
“This victory alone does not eliminate (ISIL) 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,” Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, the commander of the US-led operation, said in a statement.
Meanwhile, civilians who have fled fighting in Mosul face a dire humanitarian crisis with the Norwegian Refugee Council saying displaced civilians are living in “incredible hardship” in temporary camps.
“Temperatures in this part of Iraq are topping 45 degrees. People are living in camps. They need a lot of water, and the threat of disease looms in this kind of weather,” the NRC’s Melany Markham told reporters.
Earlier in the day, Iraqi commanders said they believed hundreds of ISIL fighters remained inside the group’s last enclave and were using their families – including women and children – as human shields in a fight to the death.
It was not clear if the clashes had ended.
Abadi has congratulated Iraqi troops on their “victory” on previous occasions despite ongoing clashes.
The cost has been enormous: much of Mosul in ruins, thousands dead and wounded and nearly a million people forced from their homes.
Michael Boyce, Oxfam’s humanitarian policy adviser in Iraq, said those stuck inside Mosul lacked water, food and medical care.
Brigadier General Haider Fadhil told The Associated Press news agency that even after ISIL is defeated, Iraqi forces will need to carry out clearing operations to root out sleeper cells and defuse booby traps.
A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday the recovery of Mosul was “a significant step in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism”.