Jubilant scenes from inside the Old City as Iraqi forces liberate Mosul

The Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, finally declared “total victory” over ISIS in Mosul. Flanked by his senior military leadership at a small base on the edge of the Old City, al-Abadi said “this great feast day crowned the victories of the fighters and the Iraqis for the past three years.” The campaign to retake the city, which began last October, has lasted nearly nine months.

For more than two years before the operation started, Iraqi forces backed by coalition airstrikes slowly regained territory from ISIS elsewhere in Iraq, most notably, Tikrit, Ramadi and Fallujah. Slowly the Iraqi forces managed to gain momentum and experience. This culminated in the much anticipated campaign to liberate the city of Mosul, ISIS’ largest and most important stronghold.

The campaign to liberate the city took longer than expected as ISIS militants employed desperate, yet highly effective tactics to slow down the advance of Iraqi troops. The militants nefariously used Mosul’s civilians as human shields throughout the course of the battle, trapping them in tight spaces in the city. Testimony from those who managed to escape ISIS’ grip show that militants would execute hundreds of civilians who were caught trying to escape.

Haider al-Abadi’s declaration prompted euphoric celebrations across the country, especially in parts of Mosul that were only recently liberated by Iraqi forces. Hundreds gathered onto the streets and celebrated late into the night, this most historic of victories since the fall of Saddam in 2003.

“Today we can’t describe our feelings. This joy has been made by the heroic soldiers, they have begun and we will continue. The celebration of liberating Mosul has begun and will end with the reconstruction of the city. We give many thanks to the security forces and to all those who have contributed to the liberation of Mosul”, said one Mosul resident present in the celebrations