MOSUL, IRAQ —
After more than 100 days of fighting, much of eastern Mosul is in ruins after Iraqi forces took over the last Islamic State stronghold Tuesday on the eastern side of the Tigris River.
Residents say they are relieved the fighting in their neighborhoods has ended and the militant group is gone. The violence and isolation of the past two and a half years, however, has shrouded the city in heartbreak and fear.
"Islam is innocent from what they are doing," said one Mosul resident, who did not want to be named for fear IS militants still have spies in his neighborhood. "What they do is 100 percent opposite of what Islam says. You cannot even call them a terrorist group because they are more destructive and more evil than terrorist groups."
Everyone VOA speaks with has lost loved ones to Islamic State, and many people say they have relatives that are trapped in western Mosul, which is running out of food, water and electricity. Militants also are becoming increasingly violent in their treatment of civilians as Iraqi forces close in.
Soldiers say they expect the fight for western Mosul to be just as fierce as in the east, if not more intense. But officials say they also are confident Iraqi and coalition forces ultimately will win.
"After finishing Mosul, we will look for ISIS in all areas in order to announce that Iraq is out and free from ISIS," said Sabah Numan, the spokesman for Iraqi Counterterrorism Services. ISIS is an acronym for Islamic State.
Officials say they expect to begin the upcoming phase of the operation, called "We Are Coming Mosul," in the next several weeks. For the families of Mosul residents awaiting the onslaught of battle in the west, Iraqi forces cannot come soon enough.