MOSUL 7/1/2017 – Three years ago, the Islamic State declared itself in Mosul. They claimed to be a new caliphate and enacted a strict regime of Sharia law according to their fundamentalist interpretations. This included destroying historical treasures and religious relics regarded as idolatrous, killing non-Muslims like the Yazidi and executing homosexuals.
The Iraqi forces declared victory over the Islamic State with the capture of the symbolically important al-Nuri mosque in Mosul where the Islamic State declared its caliphate. The mosque was destroyed by the Islamic State during the fighting.
The Islamic State began experiencing severe setbacks earlier this year with severe bombing from a coalition of allied nations including the United States, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.
The battle for Mosul began in 2016 with the Iraqi forces capturing several outlying villages around Mosul and driving out the Islamic State fighters that had held them. Central Mosul, however, remained out of reach. The Iraqi forces continued to advance on the Islamic State held city, facing booby traps hidden in villages and tunnels.
By January 2017, Eastern Mosul had been recaptured by Iraqi forces. The Iraqi forces still had much ground to cover and more challenges ahead as the Islamic State fighters vowed to fight to the death in order to defend their stronghold.
The Iraqi Army made slow but steady progress in their forward advance into the city. By February they had managed to capture Mosul’s airport, a significant victory. The Islamic State continued to fire rockets from neighborhoods, but the Iraqi army continued to advance. Reclaiming the rest of the old city will be challenging.
Around 300 Islamic State insurgents remain in the city. The Islamic State is using human shields. In addition, the old city has particularly narrow streets which will make fighting challenging. However, the Islamic State is deeply outnumbered and has suffered severe territorial loss.
The Islamic State’s territory rapidly dwindled from 78,000 square miles in January 2016 to 60,400 in December 2016. Mosul was their final stronghold and with its fall the Iraqi army is expecting to completely liberate their country.