MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived in Mosul on Sunday and congratulated the armed forces for their “victory” over Islamic State after eight months of urban warfare, bringing an end to three years of terrorist rule in the city.
The battle has left large parts of Mosul in ruins, killed thousands of civilians and displaced nearly one million people.
“The commander in chief of the armed forces (Prime Minister) Haider al-Abadi arrived in the liberated city of Mosul and congratulated the heroic fighters and Iraqi people for the great victory,” his office said in a statement.
The group vowed to “fight to the death” in Mosul, but Iraqi military spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Rasool told state media earlier on Sunday that 30 terrorists had been killed attempting to escape by swimming across the River Tigris that bisects the city.
Cornered in a shrinking area, the terrorists have resorted to sending women suicide bombers among the thousands of civilians who are emerging from the battlefield wounded, malnourished and fearful.
The battle has also exacted a heavy toll on Iraq’s security forces.
The Iraqi government does not reveal casualty figures, but a funding request from the U.S. Department of Defense said the elite Counter Terrorism Service, which has spearheaded the fight in Mosul, had suffered 40 percent losses.
The United States leads an international coalition that is backing the campaign against Islamic State in Mosul by conducting airstrikes against the terrorists and assisting troops on the ground.
The Department of Defense has requested $1.269 billion in U.S. budget funds for 2018 to continue supporting Iraqi forces.
Without Mosul – by far the largest city to fall under terrorist control – Islamic State’s dominion in Iraq will be reduced to mainly rural, desert areas west and south of the city where tens of thousands of people live.
It is almost exactly three years since the terror group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed a “caliphate” spanning Syria and Iraq from the pulpit of the historic Grand al-Nuri mosque.
Abadi declared the end of Islamic State’s “state of falsehood” a week ago, after security forces retook the mosque – although only after retreating terrorists blew it up.
The United Nations predicts it will cost more than $1 billion to repair basic infrastructure in Mosul. In some of the worst affected areas, almost no buildings appear to have escaped damage and Mosul’s dense construction means the extent of the devastation might be underestimated, U.N. officials said.
The terrorists are expected to revert to insurgent tactics as they lose territory.
The fall of Mosul also exposes ethnic and sectarian fractures between Arabs and Kurds over disputed territories or between Sunnis and the Shiite majority that have plagued Iraq for more than a decade.