Iraqi government special forces have successfully wrested Mosul University from Islamic State (IS) control, a significant victory in the push to expel the group from their last stronghold in the country. The university facilities were initially seized by IS in 2014 and the walled compound has since served as a base for the terrorist organization in the eastern half of the city. According to CNN, hundreds of IS militants were killed as part of the advance and upon gaining control, the Iraqi military seized chemicals and defused explosives and car bombs that could have been used to carry out attacks both in Mosul and beyond. No civilians were reported to have been killed or injured in the fighting. Most of the city is now under the control of government forces, which will hopefully provide more stability and the opportunity for humanitarian aid to reach the conflict-weary population, who need a chance to begin rebuilding their lives.
The raid is the culmination of the first phase of a US-backed offensive that began in October, which was aimed at pushing IS out of Mosul. According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 100,000 troops made up of the Iraqi military, Kurdish fighters, and Shiite militias provided the bulk of the numbers for the operation and were supported throughout by United States airstrikes. The lack of resistance with which the advance has been met over the past month has come as a slight surprise given the vicious nature of the fighting in October. According to Senior Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service officer Sami al-Aridhi, this latest operation ‘caught the terrorists by surprise.’ The decline in the influence of IS in Mosul is seen as welcome to those who wish for long-term peace and stability, both in Iraq and the Middle East as a whole. Reclaiming the Mosul University facilities is a symbolic victory, as well as a physical one as it is likely to spell the end of the self-declared caliphate’s rule in the country. It was also a necessary step in order for the Iraqi military to move across the Tigris river to the west to liberate the other half of the city, which is still fully under IS control. In anticipation of further conflict, IS has destroyed the five bridges over the river, though past examples of this tactic in the area demonstrate that it should only slow, and not halt the Iraqi military’s advance. However, it must be ensured that this new phase of the operation must be conducted in a manner so as not to risk the lives of the civilians. The military is obliged to protect and allow humanitarian aid to enter the city so as to rebuild infrastructure in the east and ensure better and more peaceful lives for its inhabitants.
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