Iraqi leader congratulates troops in Mosul; fight goes on

Iraqi military leaders took a victory lap on the streets of Mosul after driving out the majority of Islamic State militants.

“We are glad to see normal life return for the citizens,” Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said, according to a statement from his office. “This is the result of the sacrifices of the (country’s) heroic fighters.”

During a celebratory walk through the war-torn city, he congratulated field commanders and toured a reopened market.

But patches of Iraq’s second-largest city are still under extremist control.

Iraqi forces — with the help of air strikes from the U.S.-led coalition — have spent the past nine months battling ISIS.

On Sunday, they came under fire from an ISIS sniper right after special forces commanders planted an Iraqi flag on the western bank of the Tigris.

“We’ve been fighting this terrorist group for 31/2 years now,” Lt. Gen. Abdul Wahab al-Saadi of the special forces told The Associated Press.

“Now we are in Mosul, the east part was liberated, and there’s only a small part left in the west.”

The fight was far from over, he added.

Mosul was captured by ISIS fighters in 2014 during a massive sweep across northern and central Iraq.

Shortly afterward, the group’s sadistic leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, appeared at Mosul’s al-Nuri mosque and declared a caliphate on territory it seized in Iraq and Syria.

During fierce fighting over territory, ISIS has used civilians as human shields. The extremists have also attacked Iraqi forces with suicide bombers and snipers.

With REUVEN BLAU

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