The Latest: US calls Mosul victory a ‘critical milestone’
BAGHDAD (AP) — The Latest on the fighting in Iraq’s Mosul (all times local):
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the victory of Iraqi forces over the Islamic State group in Mosul is a “critical milestone” in the world’s fight against the extremist group.
Tillerson is congratulating Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi for the victory and also praising Kurdish forces that have helped in the fight. He’s also sending condolences to those lost in the operation.
Tillerson says much more must be done to defeat IS.
The secretary says the U.S. and its partners will work with Iraq and the U.N. to stabilize the liberated areas and help displaced civilians return home.
Tillerson says IS “terrorized and brutally murdered thousands of civilians” during its occupation of Mosul.
President Donald Trump says the recapture of the Iraqi city of Mosul from Islamic State militants means that the group’s days in Iraq and Syria “are numbered.”
Trump says in a written statement Monday that the U.S. will continue to seek the “total destruction” of the Islamic State group.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory Monday over IS in Mosul after nearly nine months of grueling combat to drive the militants out of Iraq’s second-largest city.
Trump congratulated al-Abadi and the Iraqi security forces and expressed sorrow for the thousands who were killed or brutalized by IS.
The U.S.-led coalition has congratulated Iraqi forces on retaking Mosul from the Islamic State group after Iraq’s prime minister declared victory in the northern city.
U.S. Central Command said that “while there are still areas of the Old City of Mosul that must be back-cleared of explosive devices and possible ISIS fighters in hiding,” Iraqi forces “have Mosul now firmly under their control.”
The coalition has provided crucial air support to Iraqi forces since they launched the Mosul offensive in October.
Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend said “make no mistake; this victory alone does not eliminate ISIS and there is still a tough fight ahead,” using another acronym for IS. But he said the loss of the city “is a decisive blow.”
Iraq’s prime minister has returned to Mosul and declared victory against the Islamic State group in the northern city following nine months of grueling urban combat.
Speaking Monday from a small base on the edge of Mosul’s Old City, where heavy clashes have been underway for days, Haider al-Abadi said Iraqi forces had achieved victory “by the blood of our martyrs.”
He has made similar announcements in recent days despite ongoing clashes, and visited Mosul on Sunday to congratulate Iraqi troops.
Heavy fighting was still underway just a few hours before he spoke Monday, and it was unclear whether the last militants had been defeated.
U.S.-backed Iraqi forces launched a massive operation to retake Mosul in October, and in recent days they had confined the remaining militants in an area measuring less than a square kilometer (less than a mile).
The battle for Mosul killed thousands and displaced more than 897,000 people.
Iraq’s prime minister has returned to Mosul and declared “total victory” in the fight against the Islamic State group there, though some fighting is expected to continue.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has congratulated Iraqi troops on their “victory” on previous occasions despite ongoing clashes. The latest announcement came in a statement posted on Twitter.
Hours earlier, Associated Press reporters had seen heavy fighting still underway. It was not immediately clear if the clashes had ended.
U.S.-backed Iraqi forces launched a massive operation to retake Mosul in October, and in recent days they had confined the remaining few hundred militants in an area measuring less than a square kilometer (less than a mile).
Al-Abadi visited Mosul on Sunday to congratulate the troops, even as fighting still raged nearby.
The United Nations says there is no end in sight to the humanitarian crisis in Iraq despite recent progress in driving the Islamic State group from Mosul.
A statement released Monday says thousands of Mosul residents will likely remain displaced from the city after the fight is concluded because of “extensive damage caused during the conflict.”
Airstrikes, artillery and militant bombings have destroyed thousands of buildings as well as key infrastructure in Mosul. Iraq’s Interior Ministry says more than half of all buildings in western Mosul, where the fighting was heaviest, were damaged or destroyed.
More than 800,000 people have been forced from their homes since the operation began in October.
Iraqi forces are still battling the extremists in a small area along the west bank of the Tigris River, where Iraqi commanders say hundreds of fighters are using their own families as human shields.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he welcomes news that the fight against the Islamic State group in Mosul is nearing its ends but says the once oil-rich city has been left in ruins.
Erdogan spoke to a World Petroleum Congress meeting in Istanbul on Monday. He also questioned who would pay for the reconstruction of the region.
Erdogan says Turkey is “very happy about the news that a conclusion (in the battle for) Mosul is being reached” but cautioned that “the point which Mosul has reached is very important.”
He says: “We have been left with a Mosul in ruins.”
Erdogan adds: “Who will meet the cost of rebuilding Mosul for the people of Mosul?”
The Turkish leader reiterated the importance of maintaining Iraq’s territorial integrity and said a planned independence referendum by Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region would harm Iraq’s future.
Iraqi forces are pushing to retake the last patch of ground in Mosul where Islamic State militants are holding on to a tiny sliver of the Old City, west of the Tigris River, a day after the prime minister visited soldiers to congratulate his troops on the hard-fought battle.
Brig. Gen. Haider Fadhil of the Iraqi special forces says his men, closely backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, are continuing to advance and clear territory in the Old City on Monday.
Iraqi commanders say they believe hundreds of IS fighters remain inside the neighborhood and are using their families — including women and children — as human shields.
Iraqi forces launched the operation to retake Mosul last October and began the weeks-long push through the Old City district in June.