Iraq PM visits Mosul to celebrate victory over IS

 
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Mosul, July 10 (TNS): Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi has visited Mosul to congratulate Iraqi forces for their victory over IS in the city.

Abadi was there to announce the city’s full “liberation”, his office said in a statement.

Iraqi forces, backed by US-led air strikes, have been battling to retake Mosul since 17 October last year.

Islamic State militants seized it in June 2014 before taking much of Iraq’s Sunni Arab heartland and proclaiming a “caliphate” straddling Iraq and Syria.

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, Sunni Arab tribesmen and Shia militiamen have also been involved in the gruelling battle.

The Iraqi prime minister arrived to “congratulate the armed forces and the Iraqi people” on the final defeat of IS in Mosul on Sunday, the statement said. An official speech is expected soon.

Iraqi forces have been battling the remaining pockets of jihadists desperately holding out in a tiny area near the Old City.

Sporadic bursts of gunfire could still be heard on Sunday, and plumes of smoke rose into the sky.

Thirty IS militants were killed as they attempted to escape the advance of the Iraqi forces by throwing themselves in the River Tigris, state media said.

The government announced the “liberation” of eastern Mosul in January, but the west of the city, with its narrow, winding streets, has presented a more difficult challenge.

Some 900,000 people have been displaced from the city since 2014 – about half the the pre-war population – aid organisations say.

As “victory” was proclaimed in Mosul, Save the Children warned of the psychological impact on the children “haunted by memories of extreme violence, or of loved ones killed in front of them”.

“For children and their families to process these horrors and rebuild their lives, psychological support will be absolutely crucial”, said Ana Locsin, Save the Children’s Iraq country director.

“But right now the world is providing next to no funding for mental health.”