Iraqi forces recaptured the ruins of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri Thursday, about a week after IS blew it up in what the Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, called “an official declaration of defeat.” The prime minister said today’s recapture of the mosque is an end of the caliphate—which IS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared within its walls in 2014.
Prime Minister al-Abadi said, “The return of al-Nuri Mosque and al-Hadba minaret to the fold of the nation marks the end of the Daesh state of falsehood.”
Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman of Operation Inherent Resolve, said, “While inevitable that ISIS will soon lose their capital in Raqqa and their largest population center in Iraq,” ISIS continues to hold parts of Mosul and other towns, and the next steps to be taken in defeating ISIS will be decided in Iraq.
More than 84 thousand square kilometers have been cleared of territory once held by #ISIS.— OIR Spokesman (@OIRSpox) June 29, 2017
The Syrian Democratic Forces, backed by the U.S., surrounded Raqqa, ISIS's stronghold in Syria. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, they have blocked off ISIS's last escape route. The forces have control of, "all high speed avenues of approach into Raqqa from the south," Dillion said.
While an estimated 900,000 have fled Mosul, and thousands of civilians are estimated to have died during the months-long conflict for Mosul, recapturing the mosque--the destruction of which grieved civilians--has symbolic significance as a beloved part of the city, as well as the location of the IS-declared caliphate.
Though the fighting continues, Iraq's prime minister said, "We will not relent, our brave forces will bring victory. We will continue to fight Daesh until every last one of them is killed or brought to justice."