Mosul, a city in northern Iraq has been under Daesh control for over a year. The fall of Iraq’s second largest city in June 2014, was the start of the jihadist group’s rapid advance across the north of the country, leaving the army in tatters and forcing thousands to flee their homes.
Ever since Mosul was captured, reports of people living in fear under Daesh brutality have been far too many. As the Islamic militants were busy preparing a government offensive, mosques were being blown up, schools abandoned, and women intimidated.
Satellite photos confirm IS destroyed 1400 year-old St Elijah's Monastery near Mosul, Iraq's oldest pic.twitter.com/zcnG9jdaFy— Mohamed Yehia (@yeh1a) January 20, 2016
The city became the largest to ever be controlled by Daesh. A "caliphate" was soon declared, stretching from Aleppo, Syria to the province of Diyala, Iraq.
A year on and speaking to Reuters on Thursday, Iraq’s Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi revealed little detail about the upcoming battle for Mosul, instead pointing to a possible date for an upcoming offensive:
"I can say the battle won't be delayed after the first half of this year, and its end by God's will shall also be swift […] We can determine when the battle starts, but its end depends on variables."
In the last 17 months, an international coalition of thirteen allies, Russia and 34 Islamic nations have all been hitting Daesh targets in the region. Mosul, however, isn’t the only city to fall under Daesh control.
The Islamic militants have established strongholds in areas surrounding Mosul – in Sanjar, Tal Afar and Sharqat in northern Iraq, as well as Fallujah and Ramadi – their closest to the capital, Baghdad.
Iraqi forces have made little and slow progress in trying to re-take Ramadi after the city was seized in May, 2015. Although, reports of troops and tribal fighters taking back control of a number of districts emerged in December.
The city of Tikrit, however, also held under Daesh control for eight months, was liberated by Shia militias in April, 2015. The government labelled it a "magnificent victory" over Daesh.
In December, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi mentioned that 2016 will be the final victory over the jihadists.
"2016 will be the year of the big and final victory, when [Daesh] presence in Iraq will be terminated. We are coming to liberate Mosul and it will be the fatal and final blow to [Daesh]."
Mosul may follow in Tikrit’s footsteps, proving to be a "magnificent victory" as well.