Thousands dead in eight-month battle but can peace last?
Tension still lingers as ISIS finally driven from Mosul
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.
Shattered Mosul will take years to rebuild Airstrikes pound a village on the front line in the battle with ISIS