7c News Soldiers celebrate Isis's defeat in Mosul as Iraq's greatest battle in war against jihadis reaches bloody conclusion
Members of the Iraqi federal police dance and wave their country’s national flag in celebration in the Old City of Mosul on July 8, 2017 AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images

Iraqi soldiers have started celebrating their defeat of Isis in Mosul after a nine-month siege, even before the last resistance has been extinguished. An Iraqi commander called on a loudspeaker for surviving Isis fighters to surrender, but this was rejected by their commander.

“It may take another two or three days,” said an Iraqi observer, but the Iraqi government is right in saying that the greatest battle in its war against Isis is effectively over.

Iraqi troops were beginning to look more relaxed as they moved through the shattered streets in the centre of Mosul. Air strikes have turned every building into a jumble of broken beams and masonry. There was the sound of shooting just ahead and a civilian ambulance sped past. There had been heavy fighting the previous day in which snipers were very active and there were repeated air strikes by the US-led coalition.

This may have been a last desperate counter-attack by 50 to 100 Isis fighters which drove back three Iraqi government units that were advancing on the last Isis strongholds. Iraqi commanders now say that their forces are “tens of meters” away from eliminating Isis and the Joint Operations Command said  “our units are still continuing to advance… Not much is left before our forces reach the river.”

Iraqi military and government spokesmen have repeatedly claimed successes prematurely in the past, but there is no doubt that they are now very close to winning. It has been an epic struggle which started 265 days ago on 17 October with no expectation that Isis would be able to resist for so long in the face of superior numbers and devastating air attacks.

Isis fighters have held out and inflicted heavy losses by adopting a fluid defensive system, snipers moving quickly from house to house through holes cut in the walls and through a network of tunnels.

Air strikes and Isis snipers have killed many civilians, particularly in the last few days. Whole streets in the centre of the city have been reduced to heaps of twisted wreckage. One man, called Abdulkareem, trapped behind Isis lines and with whom The Independent has been in touch by phone over the last week, was badly injured in an air strike. Another man, who was wounded in the leg by a coalition drone strike two months ago, was shot in the back and killed by an Isis sniper when he tried to escape across the Tigris River which runs through the centre of Mosul.

The US-led air coalition has stepped up the level of its attacks during the battle for west Mosul, which has been more badly damaged than in the east of the city. A UN study based on satellite photographs shows that 5,536 buildings in the Old City have been damaged of which 490 have been destroyed. Destruction along the main streets in the city centre is almost total with enormous bomb craters at cross roads. Isis has shot any civilians trying to leave their shrinking stronghold.

East Mosul, by way of contrast, has rapidly revived with most of the people displaced to camps during the fighting last year returning to their homes. Almost all the shops are open and there is a continuous supply of electricity. Traffic is very heavy and jams frequent because many people in badly damaged west Mosul have crossed the river to the eastern part of the city. Rents for houses and apartments have tripled.

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