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World

Despite Victory Over ISIS, Some Fighting Continues In Mosul

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The Iraqi government has declared a holiday in celebration of its victory over ISIS in the city of Mosul. But there's still some fighting in the streets. And neighborhoods that have been off limits for months are only just beginning to reopen. NPR's Jane Arraf is in Mosul. She's on the west side of the city. And Jane, tell us where exactly you are, what you're seeing.

JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: Well, Mary Louise, I'm just a few streets down from the industrial section, where shopkeepers just a short while ago were taking me into suicide car bomb warehouses, where there are actually still bodies of ISIS. And so that is quite close to the base where special forces are. And I've also had an opportunity to speak to the deputy commander for special forces about why it is that the liberation and the holiday have been declared, and we are still hearing mortars and airstrikes and fighting going on.

The deputy commander tells me that there are still pockets of ISIS who have rigged houses with explosives. And they've trapped a couple of hundred civilians in part of that neighborhood. So they're still fighting to get the last ISIS fighters out of there. So it's not exactly liberated yet, west Mosul. But officially, of course, this is the day of liberation. And I'm holding a leaflet to prove it. They were dropped from Iraqi planes last night. And they say, Iraq has again embraced Mosul, meaning that it's completely back to Iraq but not quite that simple, as I'm sure you can fathom.

KELLY: Now, absolutely, and you're describing walking into buildings. You describe them as suicide car bomb workshops, where there are still bodies. This is right in the middle of the city?

ARRAF: It is right in the industrial section, in the middle of the city. And I was chatting with people who were coming back. One family, who was living in a camp for displaced people with no electricity in 120-degree heat, came back to find their house destroyed. And then I started chatting with a shopkeeper, who was trying to open up his coffee shop. And he said, come, I'll show you something. So he took me into a warehouse. And they had - there were big holes punched into the wall for the car bombs to drive through. And you could see the pieces that they had used to assemble armored car bombs and other vehicle bombs.

And in every room, there was a body. And it was the body of an ISIS fighter. People in the neighborhood said that it had been near a point where Iraqi security forces were separating the fighters from civilians. And they said they believed Iraqi security forces had killed them. It's not clear how they died. One of them had his hands tied behind his back. But the neighborhood is still littered with bodies.

KELLY: It - I mean, we mentioned that today has been declared a holiday, a day of celebration. It sounds like from what you're seeing, for many people in Mosul, there is still a huge amount of work to be done, a huge amount of grieving to be done before any celebrations.

ARRAF: Absolutely, there's a big difference between the east side of Mosul, which indeed is coming back to life, and the west side, which is very, very grim. At the military base, they're handing out sweets because they are indeed celebrating. And this is an amazing comeback for Iraqi security forces, who basically faded away when ISIS came in. But at the same time, the cost of taking back this part of the city is unbelievable, the destruction, the death.

KELLY: OK.

ARRAF: And it will take a long time to recover.

KELLY: NPR's Jane Arraf providing remarkable eyewitness reporting there on the ground in Mosul. Thanks, Jane.

ARRAF: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.