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Iraqi Forces Say They're Victorious In Mosul


After months of fighting, Iraq has announced that its forces have liberated the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants. Commander in Chief Haider al-Abadi arrived in the city to congratulate his fighters. NPR's Jane Arraf is in Mosul and joins us now. Welcome, Jane.

JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: Thank you so much.

MARTÍNEZ: Jane, tell us what's happening there and what you're seeing.

ARRAF: Well, I'm at a medic station just down the road from the al-Nuri Mosque. And they keep bringing in wounded soldiers, which would indicate that, although Prime Minister Abadi has declared that it's over, it's not exactly over. And the reason for that is - it's really hard to describe just how much destruction there is around me. This has been incredibly fierce fighting. So just looking down the street, I'm seeing masses of cars that exploded that are on top of buildings and rubble.

There isn't really a single building standing here in this section of the Old City. As you mentioned, we've just come from the al-Nuri Mosque, which is where ISIS leader al-Baghdadi declared that Mosul would be the capital of a new Islamic State. Now that also is in ruins, along with a major Mosul landmark. There are other parts of the city that aren't destroyed. But here, in this absolute desolation, you really get an idea of just how fierce the fighting has been and what lies ahead, perhaps.

MARTÍNEZ: So things don't feel settled, then?

ARRAF: They're definitely not settled. At this medic station, which has American medics working with Iraqi forces and treating soldiers and civilians, we've seen soldiers come in with wounds from airstrikes today. They've treated quite a lot of civilians who have come in who have been malnourished. And as we drove up through east Mosul, across the river, we could see families coming across, looking absolutely traumatized - dusty and thirsty and hungry and clearly malnourished.

This fight has been going on in Mosul for nine months, and the battle against ISIS has been going on for almost three years. Everyone is tired - the soldiers, the civilians, everyone. And we're still hearing gunfire. We're still hearing airstrikes. The fight isn't exactly 100 percent over yet. One Iraqi commander told us just a short while ago that ISIS fighters were trying to jump into the river to escape. But there's still scattered fighting going on in that last remaining neighborhood.

MARTÍNEZ: What's the next step in Mosul?

ARRAF: Well, this is going to take a lot of money for reconciliation. And there isn't a whole lot of government money. Now, one of the things as you drive through the city - in places where there hasn't been as much destruction, you can see that incredible resiliency because people really have no choice. And there aren't even enough camps for the displaced people. So anybody who can has come back. And the shops are opening in some parts of the city. You can see men sitting around eating kebabs in restaurants that are open.

But as for the infrastructure, that's going to take billions of dollars. And some people believe it could take years. And more than the physical reconstruction, it's going to be reconciliation because here in west Mosul, where the fiercest of fighting has been for months, the feeling among a lot of security people and a lot of government people is that these were the people who welcomed in ISIS. So there is a lot of resentment against them. And there has to be reconciliation among Iraqis, and that's going to be a very, very tough call.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Jane Arraf in Mosul. Jane, thank you.

ARRAF: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jane Arraf covers Egypt, Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East for NPR News.