“We are seeing the end of the fake Daesh state,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Twitter, using another name for Islamic State. “The liberation of Mosul proves that. We will not relent,” he added.
Thursday’s recapture of the ruined Nouri mosque came a week after Islamic State blew it up as Iraqi forces closed in, reducing to rubble the 12th-century building and its 150-foot minaret. The mosque gained notoriety when Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi spoke there three years ago and declared himself the head of a caliphate, or religious empire.
Col. Ryan Dillon, the Baghdad-based spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition battling Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, said that Iraqi forces on Thursday cut a wedge in the middle of the area held by Islamic State, seizing the Nouri mosque and cornering the few hundred remaining fighters in half of Mosul’s Old City on one side, and an area around a hospital that has been a stronghold for the group on the other side.