JERUSALEM, Israel – Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi declared victory in Mosul on Monday when the Iraqi army took over the last few yards under the control of the Islamic State. The military campaign to retake Iraq's second largest city began in October and lasted longer than many analysts predicted.
ISIS fighters put up a ferocious campaign to defend the city, with suicide attacks, house-to-house fighting, snipers and using Mosul civilians as human shields. The aftermath of the battle leaves behind an enormous human and material toll.
An estimated 900,000 fled the city; thousands perished and many who survived suffered trauma few can comprehend. But now that Mosul has been liberated, what do we need to know? Here are five things to remember.
1. RECONSTRUCTION WILL BE MASSIVE
"Mosul is completely destroyed." That's the grim assessment of one Iraqi official. When you see images of Mosul, it looks like the apocalypse has come. One Kurdish friend of mine who has visited the city says it's a "second Aleppo." That's a reference to the Syrian city decimated by fighting between the Syrian army aided by Russian air attacks and the Islamist factions defending that city.
Now Mosul – ancient Nineveh in the Bible – where two million once lived is a shell of its former glory. One estimate puts the price tag simply to restore the water and electric infrastructure at $1 billion. To restore the city, it will take billions more and years of work.
2. MANY CHRISTIANS ARE NOW WITHOUT A HOME
When ISIS captured the city of Mosul in the summer of 2014, thousands of Christians fled for their lives. ISIS fighters gave them four choices: leave their homes; stay but pay the jizya tax for non-Muslims; convert to Islam and deny Jesus; or die by the sword.
Most left behind homes and livelihoods. Now many live in refugee camps but they lived with a hope of returning to their homes in Mosul. It remains to be seen if many of those homes are even habitable. CBN News has covered their plight in a number of stories. Please pray for these believers as they face destroyed homes in Mosul and a bleak future.
3. ON TO RAAQA
The fight against ISIS goes on. The commander of U.S. forces in Iraq said his number two priority – retaking Raaqa in Syria – has now become his number one priority. With his number one mission- retaking Mosul – accomplished, it's on to the ISIS self-declared capital of the caliphate Raaqa. It too promises like Mosul to be a bitter battle.
4. THE CALIPHATE IS GONE; THE CALIPHATE IS COMING
Three years ago on July 5, 2014, Abu Al Baghdadi slowly stepped up the stairs of the minbar (pulpit) inside Mosul's Grand al-Nuri Mosque announced a caliphate and declared himself the new caliph. Three years later, the caliphate lay in ruins but their apocalyptic fight continues. They are morphing back to their terrorist roots with followers bringing carnage to faraway places from London to the Philippines.
It's important to remember ISIS is a manifestation of an ideology that lives on to bring the world under the subjugation of Islam. This belief system, with roots in the Koran, fuels the fire not only in individuals or groups but nation states. For example, Iran's goal is to export its Shiite Islam so one day they will dominate the world.
5. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS MOVING
In the midst of the death, destruction and despair going on in Mosul, the Holy Spirit is working. Even in refugee camps flooded by refugees from Mosul, Muslims have had dreams and visions of Jesus. Some have put their faith in Him. Ministries like Free Burma Rangers are providing medical relief on the front lines of the battle while sharing the Good News of Jesus.
CBN International and other ministries are working to provide humanitarian relief and hope to those who have lost their livelihoods. Please pray for the Holy Spirit to continue to work in the hearts of the multitudes who have been devastated by the battle to retake Mosul.