MOSUL, Iraq – Many neighborhoods in Mosul remain in almost total ruin almost eight months after government forces, with the help of international aerial support and local militias, wrested control of the ancient city in northern Iraq from the Islamic State terror organization militants.
After nine months of intense urban warfare, Iraqi forces triumphantly declared the end of the IS’ three-year occupation in Mosul on July 20, 2017, but the military victory came at an immense cost to the city’s infrastructure and human population.
Images from the western Old City of Mosul captured by epa in late January 2018 showed that much of it remained in rubble; piles of crumpled cars spattered with bullet holes have begun to rust and what is left of the sparse number of structures have been perforated by shrapnel.
Six months after the IS was ousted from Mosul, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced complete victory over the terror organization in Iraq.
The insurgency and subsequent civil war have displaced roughly 3.2 million civilians and destroyed 60 percent of cities in the country’s predominantly Sunni areas, where the extremists had managed to gain a foothold.
IS swept into Mosul in June 2014 and filled a local power vacuum as government, security forces and police abandoned their posts and much of their equipment to the encroaching extremists, many of whom were tentatively welcomed by a portion of the Sunni population who had before felt sidelined by a mainly Shiite administration.
Mosul became the self-proclaimed capital of the IS’ Iraqi territories and, in its Great Mosque of al-Nuri, the organization’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared IS’s so-called caliphate.
The mosque’s renowned leaning minaret, built in the 12th century, was demolished by the IS as militants fled west from the city toward Syria, an action that encapsulated in one fell swoop the destructive brutality of the terror organization.
Towards the end of its reign in Mosul, IS bunkered down in the city as it became the focus of an internationally-backed military campaign that forced thousands of civilians to flee to the already burgeoning refugee camps in the neighboring Kurdish region of Iraq.
Sectarian tension between Sunnis, the largest branch of Islam but a minority in Iraq, and Shiites underpin much of the violence in the Middle Eastern nation.