Iraqis celebrate as Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announces victory over Islamic State in Mosul, in Baghdad, Iraq, July 10, 2017. (Reuters Photo)
BAGHDAD, July 10 (Xinhua) -- Thousands of Iraqis gathered Monday in Baghdad to celebrate the historic victory over the extremist Islamic State (IS) militants in the city of Mosul.
Long lines of civilian cars decorated with roses, honked their horns and roamed the main streets in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, while hundreds of people in groups were raising Iraqi flags, dancing and chanting victory songs and congratulating each other in many areas across the city, including Tahrir Square Mansour and Baghdad al-Jadida districts.
"I congratulate all Iraqis on the great victory over the terrorist Daesh (IS) which was achieved by the blood of the martyrs of our security forces and the unity of all Iraqis under the leadership of Prime Minister Abadi," Ismail Hameed, 23, told Xinhua.
"This is the celebration of all Iraqis no matter to their sects or ethnic groups, because Daesh is enemy of all of us, and this is a U-turn in our life," said Hameed who was dancing at a gathering of young men at Tahrir Square in downtown Baghdad.
"I have mixed feelings of happiness for defeating IS in Mosul and sadness for my colleagues who martyred in the previous battles with Daesh. Nevertheless I want to congratulate all Iraqis for this great victory," Saad Aziz, a soldier in Mansour district in western Baghdad, told Xinhua.
Iraqi security forces intensified security measures and blocked some streets to protect the celebrations, as dozens of soldiers and police forces were deployed in the main streets and crowded commercial areas.
Earlier in the day, Abadi formally declared Mosul liberated from IS after nearly nine months of fierce fighting to dislodge the extremist militants from their last major stronghold in Iraq.
"I declare to the whole world the end, failure and collapse of Daesh state, the state of IS group terrorism, which they announced it here in Mosul three years ago," Abadi said in a speech in Mosul.
"We have other missions; reconstruction and clearing Daesh cells, which will need intelligence effort," Abadi said.
Iraq also "needs unity and close ranks, just like we have been unified in eliminating Daesh, we have to be unified to restore stability these areas and the return of displaced people and rebuilding the areas that we liberated," Abadi added in his speech.
On October 17, Abadi announced the start of a major offensive to retake Mosul, the country's second largest city.
Mosul, 400 km north of Iraq's capital Baghdad, came under IS control since June 2014, when government forces abandoned their weapons and fled, enabling IS militants to take control of parts of Iraq's northern and western regions.