Iraqi forces have reached the Grand Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, the heart of the Old City. The liberation of the mosque and its surrounding areas is highly symbolic. Exactly three years ago, Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the formation of the so-called caliphate at the height of the group’s power.
Today, however, they are no more. The liberation of the mosque extinguishes the remaining remnants of Daesh control in the Old City, marking the end of the group’s reign of terror and their weakening stance in the region.
The last few weeks of the offensive witnessed an increase in Daesh savagery. Last week, Daesh blew up the Nuri mosque and its Hadbaa minaret. For many, including Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi, this was a sign of the group’s end.
Moreover, in an apparent bid to prevent civilians fleeing Western Mosul, Daesh shot 163 people in one day. The victims were mainly women and children, their bloodied possessions strewn around the streets.
The grueling eight-month operation led by Iraqi forces took longer than expected. Daesh, in a last-gasp effort, used civilians as human shields, and countered the offensive with suicide bombs, snipers, booby-traps and mortar fire.
Eastern Mosul was declared fully liberated in January this year, but the months that followed have marked some of the deadliest fighting in the combat against Daesh.
Mosul was once home to 1.5 million people, but Daesh have killed and injured more than 30,000 Mosul civilians, most of whom were women and children. Over the past eight months there has been a vast rise of maimed and wounded civilians. “It was a hateful life under Daesh,” said a young boy.
The 200,000 trapped civilians have lacked food, water and medicine under Daesh repression, which worsened as the battle for Mosul intensified. Under Daesh, citizens dug their own wells for water and rigged neighbourhood generators. While 700,000 civilians have been displaced from their homes, seeking refuge in neighbouring towns or in camps.
The expulsion of Daesh from Iraq naturally provides hope to the millions that have been displaced. Citizens are starting to return home and rebuild what is left. But, the scars they have left on the city and the people will remain for decades to come.