The Iraqi city of Mosul, which fell to the Islamic State in 2014, has finally been liberated.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi offered congratulations to the nation’s armed forces and people Sunday, calling it a “great victory.”
“We are glad to see life back to normal for civilians in Mosul and all that was a result of the sacrifices of our heroes who amazed the world with their bravery,” Abadi said on Twitter.
Citizens celebrated by dancing, playing music, honking horns, and waving the Iraqi flag in the streets.
Rayan Salahudin, who’d been trapped in the city since its fall, told BloombergPolitics, “there are no words to describe the happiness and joy we are feeling right now.”
Retaking the city marks a major blow against Islamic State, whose leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made his first speech as self-proclaimed caliph from one of Mosul’s mosques in 2014. The group is now diminished, having lost much of its territory spanning northeastern Syria and northwestern Iraq. Its ability to attract foreign fighters is also dented, although it continues to inspire militants abroad who have staged terrorist attacks from London to Tehran. [BloombergPolitics]
While there is indeed much reason for Iraqis to celebrate, other areas of the country are still under ISIS control and even in Mosul security forces now face the challenge of sleeper cells, suicide bombers, and booby traps in civilian homes.
“It’s going to continue to be hard every day,” said Col. Pat Work, told The New York Times.
“Iraqi security forces need to be on the top of their game, and we need to be over their shoulder helping them as they move through this transition to consolidate gains and really sink their hold in on the west side,” he added. “ISIS will challenge this.”