Iraqis are celebrating as the US-led coalition confirmed that troops have ousted so-called Islamic State from their former stronghold of Mosul.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi returned the battleground city as he announced “total victory” in the fight against IS.
The international coalition that has been aiding in the fight later congratulated Iraqi troops who they said now have the entirety of the city “firmly under their control”.
The victory has cemented a steady rollback of IS in Iraq and is also a significant symbolic victory in the city where the terror group first declared their self-styled caliphate.
However, fighting was still ongoing on Friday as coalition forces warned that the city may still hold pockets of terrorist fighters in hiding and is riddled with explosives.
Mr al-Abadi – who had yesterday announced that Mosul was liberated – today gave a formal television speech from the outskirts of the city announcing the victory.
It came as the US Central Command, which has provided crucial support to Iraqi forces, said IS’ loss of Mosul was a “decisive blow”.
The loss the city sees the terror group firmly in retreat.
However US Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend cautioned: “This victory alone does not eliminate ISIS and there is still a tough fight ahead,” using another acronym for Islamic State.
Iraqi forces were still battling the extremists in a small area along the west bank of the Tigris River, where commanders say hundreds of fighters are using their own families as human shields.
The recapture of Mosul comes after nearly nine months of bitter fighting which saw IS ousted street by street in some areas and saw the west of the city largely pounded into rubble.
Over 800,000 people fled the city, while thousands more were trapped between the opposing forces.
A total of 774 Iraqi soldiers died during the battle, while the number of residents killed is unknown but thought to reach into hundreds.
Human rights groups have warned that widespread destruction – particularly in the west of the city – could undermine the military victory and mean that many former residents of the city cannot return home.
It comes as operations continue to oust IS from other areas they still control within Iraq and Syria.
The terror group also continues to carry out insurgent attacks in Iraq, Syria and beyond.
Iraqi and coalition officials have said that stopping terrorist attacks by IS will be harder than driving them out from their territory and that the group is likely to remain a threat for some years.