They jumped into the Tigris River, as they found no path to escape. The Islamic State (IS) militants had no other option after the Iraqi Army, with the help of US coalition forces, pushed them to the riverbank in Mosul on Sunday. The Iraqi television claimed that the government forces successfully destroyed the last hideout of militants on July 9. Later on Monday, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that it was the end of the IS in Iraq’s second largest city. “From here, from the heart of the liberated and free Mosul, by the sacrifices of the Iraqis from all the provinces, we declare the great victory for all of Iraq and Iraqis,” said the PM.
Defence experts said that IS militants had taken shelter near the western bank of Tigris, where the river divides Mosul into two parts. With the fight for Mosul in its final stage on Monday, militants sent female suicide bombers hidden among fleeing civilians, while Iraqi forces and the US-led coalition unleashed punishing air-strikes and artillery fire that set dozens of buildings ablaze. Some of the terrorists jumped into Tigris only when they realised that it would not be possible for them to defeat the Iraqi forces.
Although the Iraqi Army planted a national flag on the banks of Tigris to declare their victory, much of the historic city is reduced to rubble and is still under threat of IS attacks. The thick black smoke in Mosul’s Old City tells us what has been going on here for the last nine months. The bodies of IS militants were scattered around the streets and fighting was still underway in one small pocket of the city. Spokesperson of the Iraqi forces Brigadier General Yahya Rasool said that at least 30 IS militants were killed when they tried to cross the river. As the militants used women suicide bombers at the last moment, it is difficult to predict the number of casualties.
Several cities in southern Iraq and parts of western Mosul are still under control of the IS. The militant outfit is also under tremendous pressure in Raqqa (their self-declared capital in Syria). Experts opined that IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi lost Mosul, one of the two main centres of his ‘caliphate’, and was on the brink of losing the other (Raqqa). The way America helped the Iraqi forces, the IS would definitely target many Western countries, they said.
Experts are worried about another crisis – the reconstruction of Mosul. Fawaz Gerges, a Middle East expert at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said that there was no time to waste in beginning social and physical reconstruction. “The first challenge facing the Iraqi government and international organisations is to provide basic necessities of life for more than 400,000 Iraqis, who have been displaced from the western part of Mosul, which mostly lies in ruins,” he told the CNN. According to estimates of the UN, approximately 900,000 people have become homeless in Mosul since last October. The US Defence Department has claimed that rebuilding the Old City alone would cost USD 1 billion. The department also urged the Trump administration to allocate USD 127 million in budget for the year 2017-18 in order to support the Iraqi forces.
Lise Grande, an American Deputy Special Representative of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, told the press: “Up to 200,000 people still live in Mosul’s Old City and three other districts. People, who had managed to get out of the militant areas, report a dramatic situation, including lack of food, limited water and severe shortages of medicines.” She said: “We know that there have been health facilities in these areas, but we don’t know whether they are still functioning.”
Right now, the Iraqi Army is in a very fresh mood. In 2014, the IS almost defeated the Army in northern Iraq. However, the victory in Mosul boosted the Army’s confidence. Some Iraqi Army personnel celebrated the victory by swimming in Tigris. Meanwhile, a senior Army officer has admitted that the good feelings may not last as long as they want. The officer is right, as clashes between different groups (like Arab-Kurd and Shia-Sunni), which had given birth to the IS, are still going on in West Asia.
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