The Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham seized control of Mosul, which is the provincial capital of Ninewa and Iraq’s second largest city, after five days of heavy fighting with Iraqi forces. Mosul is the second major city to fall to the former al Qaeda affiliate this year.
Fighters from the ISIS took control of government buildings, including the provincial headquarters, as well as police stations and military installations inside and outside of the city, according to reports. Several police stations were torched by the ISIS. Some Iraqi soldiers and policemen are said to have shed their uniforms before fleeing their posts to avoid being captured and executed by ISIS fighters.
The ISIS has raised the black flag of jihad and “announced over loudspeaker that they had ‘come to liberate Mosul and would fight only those who attack them,'” the BBC reported.
Usamah al Nujayfi, the speaker of Iraq’s Council of Representatives whose brother is the governor of Ninewa, told Al Baghdadiyah Satellite Television that “the right and left sides of the city of Mosul as well as its districts and subdistricts have been completely occupied.”
Nujayfi also accused Iraqi security forces of abandoning their posts and leaving weapons, ammunition, and armored vehicles behind.
“When the battle intensified inside the city of Mosul, these forces gave up their weapons and the commanders fled, leaving behind arms, armored vehicles, and locations for the terrorists,” Nujayfi continued. “Mosul Airport and some aircrafts and command locations have fallen, not to mention arms warehouses. Prisons have been taken and the prisoners have been released.” Some reports indicate that hundreds of prisoners have been freed.
Nujayfi also warned that the ISIS fighters are “now heading toward Salahaddin Governorate,” and that the villages outside of Al Shirqat “have been entirely occupied.”
It is unclear how many Iraqi soldiers, policemen, and civilians were killed in the latest round of fighting in Mosul.
The ISIS began its assault on Mosul five days ago, when hundreds of fighters entered the city in pickup trucks and attacked government installations and security forces. ISIS fighters took control of several neighborhoods, but the military claimed that it beat back the jihadists and killed 105 fighters as they retreated. Yet the military said that 10 percent of Mosul remained under ISIS control. Eighteen security personnel were reported killed on the first day of fighting.
Mosul was the last major city to serve as a bastion for the ISIS after the US and Iraqi forces launched counterinsurgency operations as part of the surge that began in 2007. By the time US forces left Iraq at the end of 2011, the ISIS was operating as terrorist cells in the city. Close proximity to Syria allowed the ISIS to continue operating in Mosul and the northwestern province of Ninewa. The ISIS began reasserting itself as the Syrian civil war picked up steam in the summer of 2011 and US forces withdrew from Iraq a few months later in December.
Mosul is the second major city to fall completely under the control of the ISIS this year. At the beginning of January, the ISIS and allied tribal groups seized Fallujah, the second largest city in Anbar province. The ISIS immediately imposed sharia, or Islamic law. Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar, also briefly fell under the ISIS’ control, but Iraqi forces regained much of the city. Other smaller cities and towns in Anbar are under the ISIS’ influence.