TEHRAN (Press Shia) – Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived in Mosul Sunday and congratulated the armed forces for their “victory” over Daesh (ISIL or ISIS) after nearly nine months of urban warfare.

Daesh’s defeat in Mosul three years after taking the city is a major blow for the Takfiri group, which is also losing ground in its operational base in the Syrian city of Raqqa from where it has planned global attacks.

“The commander in chief of the armed forces (Prime Minister) Haider al-Abadi arrived in the liberated city of Mosul and congratulated the heroic fighters and Iraqi people for the great victory,” his office said in a statement, Agencies reported.

State television later showed Abadi touring Mosul on foot alongside residents of Iraq's second-largest city.

Airstrikes and exchanges of gunfire could still be heard in the narrow streets of the Old City, where the terror group has staged its last stand against Iraqi forces.

Lt. Gen. Jassim Nizal of the army’s 9th Division said his forces achieved “victory” in their sector, after a similar announcement by the militarized Federal Police. His soldiers danced to patriotic music atop tanks even as airstrikes sent plumes of smoke into the air nearby.

Abadi met commanders in west Mosul who led the battle, but he has yet to issue a formal declaration that the entire city has been retaken from the group. 

Abadi’s spokesman, Saad al-Hadithi, said victory would not be formally declared until the few remaining Daesh militants were cleared from Mosul.

Iraq launched the operation to retake Mosul in October. Daesh now controls less than a square kilometer of territory in Mosul’s Old City, but is using human shields, suicide bombers and snipers in a fight to the death.

Cornered in a shrinking area, the Takfiri militants resorted to sending women suicide bombers among the thousands of civilians who are emerging from the battlefield wounded, malnourished and fearful, Iraqi army officers said.

The struggle has also exacted a heavy toll on Iraq’s security forces.

Meantime, the Iraqi people celebrated the liberation of the embattled city of Mosul in the capital of Baghdad on Sunday evening.