Thou­sands dead in eight-month bat­tle but can peace last?

Ten­sion still lingers as ISIS fi­nally driven from Mo­sul

Irish Sunday Mirror - - NEWS -

Bashiqa, snap­per Rowan Griffiths and I saw 100 am­bu­lances fol­low­ing the Kurd as­sault. Within hours all were used as ISIS fought like demons.

Dozens of Kur­dish war­riors died that day at­tack­ing ISIS de­fences. By its end, 70 of the enemy were killed, clear­ing the way to Mo­sul.

As the troops en­cir­cled Mo­sul and moved in, the fight­ing wors­ened. The en­su­ing eight months of blood­let­ting has been the most vi­o­lent and costly sin­gle op­er­a­tion to take a city the world has seen in decades.

Around 9,000 civil­ians have been killed, com­mu­ni­ties turned to dust and bil­lions of pounds spent on mu­ni­tions – while many thou­sands of troops and po­lice have died.

Fi­nally last week, Iraqi forces, who bore the brunt of the ur­ban strug­gle, had taken the old city. They reached the ru­ins of the al-nuri Mosque, sup­pos­edly the fi­nal prize for coali­tion forces as it is where the ISIS caliphate was launched in 2014. Yet troops, like the po­lice of­fi­cer we saw, were still dy­ing as pock­ets of ISIS were wiped out.

Even as Iraqi PM Haider al-abadi claimed a stun­ning vic­tory for Iraq, his sol­diers and po­lice were be­ing killed and hor­ri­bly wounded by the fi­nal dregs of Is­lamic State in the key city.

My­self and pho­tog­ra­pher Rowan have re­ported on the bat­tle for Mo­sul from its be­gin­ning to the fi­nal days.

Thou­sands of ISIS fight­ers have died, and those cap­tured are be­ing carted off to Bagh­dad to go on trial fac­ing cer­tain death. Many have been sum­mar­ily ex­e­cuted al­ready. It will cost €50bil­lion to re­build Mo­sul and at least five years be­fore it can look like it is be­ing re­built.

But the ISIS caliphate dream, stretch­ing from Iraq, across Syria, into Jor­dan, Le­banon and else­where in the Mid­dle East, is dwin­dling.

Leader Abu Bakr al-bagh­dadi is dead and ISIS is im­plod­ing. Here in Mo­sul, the city’s war­weary res­i­dents – most of whom lost rel­a­tives and friends – are free. But only to a de­gree. The re­lief that it is all over will not last as those who lived the hor­ror re­mem­ber the de­tail.

There will be the in­evitable vi­o­lent reprisals against col­lab­o­ra­tors by civil­ians and, frankly, cor­rupt and of­ten mur­der­ous po­lice of­fi­cers.

And the ten­sion in the re­gion will go on. Shia mili­tia and Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps troops who also fought for Mo­sul are ex­ten­sions of Tehran’s in­creas­ing in­flu­ence across Iraq and Syria. Kur­dish forces who fought to smash ISIS’S east­ern Mo­sul de­fences want to ex­tend Kur­dish in­flu­ence in north­ern Iraq. Neigh­bour­ing Turkey is al­ready mus­cle-flex­ing.

And even as Abadi’s Shia gov­ern­ment cel­e­brates the Mo­sul vic­tory, there are fears of an ISIS Mark II if he fails to re­as­sure the city’s Sunni Mus­lims he will pro­tect them. The ten­sion is piano-wire tight. The tune be­ing played now is hope. But in this dis­cor­dant land, a crescendo of con­flict is never very far away.

c.hughes@mir­ror.co.uk

Shat­tered Mo­sul will take years to re­build Airstrikes pound a vil­lage on the front line in the bat­tle with ISIS

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