Iraq has declared that the Islamic State Caliphate has ended, after Iraqi troops on Thursday captured the ruined mosque in Mosul, the de facto capital of the Caliphate.
“The return of al-Nuri Mosque and al-Hadba minaret to the fold of the nation marks the end of the Daesh state of falsehood,” Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement, referring to the hardline Sunni Mulsim group by an Arabic acronym.
The Prime Minister further added that Iraqi forces would continue to hunt Islamic State’s fighters “to kill them and detain them, down to the last one”.
Reuters reports that Iraqi authorities expect the eight month long battle for Mosul to end in coming days as remaining Islamic State fighters are bottled up in just a handful of neighbourhoods of the Old City.
Iraq believes that the seizure of the nearly 850-year-old Grand al-Nuri Mosque — from where Islamic State proclaimed the caliphate nearly three years ago to the day — is a huge symbolic victory.
The fall of Mosul would in effect mark the end of the Iraqi half of the IS caliphate, although the group still controls territory west and south of the city, ruling over hundreds of thousands of people.
Its stronghold in Syria, Raqqa, is also close to falling.
Iraqi military spokesman, Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, told state TV: “Their fictitious state has fallen.”
The insurgents blew up the medieval mosque and its famed leaning minaret a week ago as US-backed Iraqi forces started a push in its direction.
ISIS’ black flag had been flying from al-Hadba (The Hunchback) minaret since June 2014.
Thousands of people have been killed in the battle for Mosul.
About 900,000 people, nearly half the pre-war population of the northern city, have fled the battle, mostly taking refuge in camps or with relatives and friends, according to aid groups.
Those trapped in the city suffered hunger and deprivation as well as death or injury, and many buildings have been ruined.
ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed himself “caliph,” or ruler of all Muslims, from the Grand al-Nuri Mosque’s pulpit on July 4, 2014, after the insurgents overran vast swathes of Iraq and Syria.
His speech from the mosque was the first time he revealed himself to the world and the footage broadcast then is to this day the only video recording of him as “caliph”.