An Iraqi Security Forces member guards a patrol base in Mosul, Iraq, June 19, 2017. US Army photo by Cpl. Rachel Diehm.
Iraqi officials on Thursday declared the end of ISIS’s so-called caliphate as security forces reclaimed a symbolic mosque in the heart of Mosul.
“The return of al-Nuri Mosque and al-Habda minaret to the fold of the nation marks the end of the Daesh state of falsehood,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement, according to Reuters.
ISIS destroyed the minaret on the mosque last week as Iraqi Counter Terrorism forces closed in. The mosque is where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi proclaimed ISIS a caliphate three years ago.
Iraqi forces, with support from the US-led coalition, are still in close combat with ISIS in the city. On Tuesday and Wednesday, coalition aircraft conducted air strikes targeting an ISIS headquarters, along with fighting positions, tactical units, weapons caches, and other targets, according to US Cen?tral Command.
Iraqi troops are advancing on ISIS’s two holdouts in the old city and a hospital complex, where they have used an 11 story “killing tower” to murder civilians who have tried to leave the city.
“The old city still remains a difficult, dense, suffocating fight,” said Army Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, in a Thursday briefing. “Tight alleyways with booby-traps, civilians, and ISIS fighters around every corner make the ISF’s advance extremely challenging. But Iraqi grit, determination, and support from the coalition will lead to the imminent liberation.”
While the coalition did not go as far to say the caliphate was over, like Iraqi officials, Dillon said it is “inevitable” that ISIS will lose Mosul completely.
“ISIS’s so-called caliphate is crumbling from the outside and from within,” he said. “As ISIS continues to lose territory, their morale plummets.”