Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has announced that Mosul is officially free from ISIS, despite a few dozen militants making a last stand. The sound of gunfire rang out from the Old City Monday and plumes of smoke rose above the historic structures. ISIS militants have vowed to fight to the death in the few streets they still control.
It took ISIS just days to take Mosul in June of 2014, but it has taken Iraqi forces more than eight months of hard fighting to win it back. That fight, backed by militia and heavy air strikes by the US-led coalition, has left Mosul in ruins and done little to repair the sectarian tension among Iraqis.
Iraq’s army and police now control most streets of the country’s second largest city, along with militia fighters. They hold their weapons next piles of rubble and bent metal that were once Mosul’s homes, shops, institutions and government buildings. Most of the structures still standing are littered with bullet and mortar holes. The bridges that use to connect the east and west sides of the city, over the Tigris River, are destroyed.
The United Nations warned Monday that an end of fighting in the city would not relieve the humanitarian crisis in the country. The organization says it will take billions of dollars and years to rebuild the city. Until then, most of nearly 1 million civilians displaced by the fighting will languish in camps in northern Iraq.