A week after Islamic State fighters blew up the historic Grand al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul, Iraq, where the ISIS caliphate declared itself three years prior, Iraqi forces retook the ruins in what Reuters calls a “symbolic victory” in the region. According to Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, an Iraqi military spokesperson, the mosque’s recapture means “[t]heir fictitious state has fallen,” though the authorities suspect the months-long battle to retake the city of Mosul will last a few days more. Considering the importance of the 850-year-old building, however, the significance of Thursday’s news cannot be ignored.
If and when the Islamic State’s grasp on Mosul falls, experts suggest it will mark the end of the terrorist organization’s grasp on Iraq — though its fighters still control areas to the south and west of the city. As for ISIS as a whole, however, it rages on in Syria, where the caliphate maintains a strong presence despite opposition from U.S. and Russian forces. What’s more, the group’s recent incursion into the Philippines has helped spread their influence outside of the Middle East and into the Pacific. Yet that the costly, eight month-long battle for Mosul between ISIS fighters and Iraqi forces is coming to a close should be encouraging.