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Mosul (36°22′ N 43°07′ E; Arabic: الموصل al-Mawṣil, Kurdish: Mûsil, Assyrian: ܢܝܢܘܐ Nîněwâ) is a city in northern Iraq. It stands on both banks of the Tigris River, with five bridges linking the two sides, some 396 km (250 miles) northwest of Baghdad.

In 1987, the city's population was 664,221 people; the 2002 population estimate was 1,739,800.[1] It is the nation's second largest city, after Baghdad. About 80% of the population of Mosul is Arab, with a minority of Kurds, Assyrians, and Turkomans. However, the surrounding region is predominantly Kurdish.

The fabric muslin was long manufactured here and is named for this city. Another historically important product of the area is Mosul marble.



Ancient and Ottoman Mosul

The area around Mosul has been continuously inhabited for at least 8,000 years. The city itself was founded by the Assyrians as an outpost or citadel located on the hill of Q'leat on the right bank of the Tigris, across from the ancient city of Nineveh (now the town of Ninewa). In approximately 850 BC, King Ashurnasirpal II of Assyria chose the city of Nimrud to build his capital city where present day Mosul is located. In approximately 700 BC, King Sennacherib made Nineveh the new capital of Assyria. The mound of Kuyunjik in Mosul is the site of the palaces of King Sennacherib and his grandson Ashurbanipal. Probably built on the site of an earlier Assyrian fortress, Mosul later succeeded Nineveh as the Tigris bridgehead of the road that linked Syria and Anatolia with Persia.

Mosul became an important commercial center in the 6th century BC. It was conquered briefly by the Roman Empire before falling under Muslim rule in 637 AD. It was promoted to the status of capital of Mesopotamia under the Umayyads in the 8th century, during which it reached a peak of prosperity. During the Abbassid era it was an important trading centre because of its strategic location, astride the trade routes to India, Persia and the Mediterranean. In 1127 it became the centre of power of the Zengid dynasty. Saladin besieged the city unsuccessfully in 1182 but in the 13th century it was conquered and destroyed by the Mongols; although it was later rebuilt under the rule of the Ottoman Empire and remained important, it did not regain its earlier grandeur. It remained under Ottoman control until 1918, with a brief break in 1623 when Persia seized the city for a short time, and was the capital of one of the three vilayets (provinces) of Ottoman Iraq (the other two being Baghdad and Basra).

The city is a historic center of Nestorian Christianity containing the tombs of several Old Testament prophets such as Jonah, who is commemorated in a rare joint Muslim/Christian shrine (originally a Nestorian church, now a mosque), and the somewhat more obscure Nahum.

Mosul in the 20th century

Tigris River and bridge in Mosul.
Tigris River and bridge in Mosul.

Mosul's importance as a strategic trading centre declined after the opening of the Suez Canal, which enabled cargoes to travel to and from India by sea rather than by land across Iraq. However, the city's fortunes revived greatly with the discovery and exploitation of oil in the area, from the late 1920s onwards. It became a nexus for the movement of oil via truck and pipeline to both Turkey and Syria. Qyuarrah Refinery was built within about an hour's drive from the city and was used to process oil for roadbuilding projects. It was damaged but not destroyed during the Iran-Iraq War. Mosul provides a key portion of the country's electrical needs via Mosul Dam and several neighbouring thermal turbine facilities. The construction of Mosul University enabled the education of many in the city and surrounding areas, and it features excellent engineering and linguistics departments among it's many other academic offerings.

In World War I, forces of the British Empire occupied Mosul in October 1918. After the war, the city and the surrounding area became part of the British mandate of Iraq. However, this mandate was contested by Turkey which continued to claim the area. Iraq's possession of Mosul was confirmed by the League of Nations in 1926.

Mosul and its large Kurdish population were significantly affected by the anti-Kurdish campaigns of the deposed former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, particularly during the 1990s when the Kurdish population mounted an unsuccessful revolt against the regime. In the wake of the revolt's failure, a swathe of Kurdish-populated territory in the north and northeast of Iraq fell under the control of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Kurdistan Democratic Party, which established autonomous (and de facto independent) rule in the region. Mosul did not fall within the Kurdish-ruled area, but it was included in the no-fly zones imposed and patrolled by the United States and Britain between 1991 and 2003. Although this prevented Saddam's forces from mounting large-scale military operations again in the region, it did not stop the regime from implementing a steady policy of "Arabisation" by which the demography of Mosul was gradually changed. Despite the program Mosul and its surrounding villages remained home to a mixture of Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Turkomans, a few Jews, and isolated populations of Yazidis. Saddam was however able to garrison portions of the 5th Army within the city, had the international flight capable airport under military control, and recruited heavily from the city for his military's officer corps.

Mosul after Saddam

 Supporters of deposed former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein march in the streets of the northern city of Mosul on July 4, 2004 in protest of the Iraqi Special Tribunal.
Supporters of deposed former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein march in the streets of the northern city of Mosul on July 4, 2004 in protest of the Iraqi Special Tribunal.

When the 2003 invasion of Iraq was being planned, the United States had originally intended to base troops in Turkey and mount a thrust into northern Iraq to capture Mosul and the strategically vital oilfields there. However, the Turkish parliament refused to grant permission for the operation. When the war did break out in March 2003, US military activity in the area was confined to strategic bombing with airdropped special forces operating in the vicinity. The city fell on April 11, 2003, when pro-Saddam forces abandoned it two days after the fall of Baghdad. Kurdish fighters entered the unprotected city and looted and destroyed all the infrastructure of the city, looted the banks, and made off with heavy machines and military weapons, much to the alarm of Turkey (which feared a Kurdish bid for independence, as well as a sympathetic response from the large Kurdish population in the south of Turkey and the east of Syria). The next day the residents of the city took over the city and kicked the thugs out, before being replaced by occupying forces of the United States military.

On April 15, 2003, U.S. troops returned fire on a mob of anti-occupation protesters in Mosul after members of the crowd threw stones at a U.S. controlled building. At least ten Iraqis were killed and many more were injured.

On July 22, 2003, Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday Hussein and Qusay Hussein, were attacked and killed by Coalition forces in Mosul. The city also served as the operational base for the US Army's 101st Airborne Division during the occupational phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom. During its tenure, the 101st Airborne Division was able to extensively survey the city and advised by the 431st Civil Affairs Battalion, Non Governmental Organizations, and the people of Mosul, began reconstruction work by employing the people of Mosul in the arena's of security, electricity, local governance, drinking water, wastewater, trash, roads, bridges, and environmental concerns. It is currently the home of the Army's First Stryker Brigade.

Since the overthrow of Saddam, Mosul (and Ninevah province) have been the scene of what is essentially a land war between Kurds and Arab Sunnis. The Kurds are trying to reclaim the land which was theirs before Saddam drove them north (attempting genocide at several times, including after the first US invasion of Iraq, when the US forces stood back). The Sunni Arabs are trying to defend the land on which they now live, having been settled there in Saddam's Arabization of Ninevah.

During the occupation by the US 101st Airborne Division, a 21,000 strong force under Gen. Petraeus, the U.S. forces made a civil peace with the local Sunni tribes. However, after its pullout, the CIA has allied itself almost exclusively with the Kurds, and the US has been seen as essentially another tribal ally of the Kurds.

In November of 2004, concurrently with the US & Iraq destruction of the city of Fallujah, the entire police force of Mosul resigned to turn the city over to Sunni milita (insurgents). In the following month, the city was retaken by US and Kurd tribal forces, and since that time the local army units (Kurd and US) have been at odds with the local police forces (primarily Sunni Arab), occasionally even at armed conflict.

On December 21, 2004, fourteen U.S. soldiers, four U.S. citizen Halliburton employees, and four Iraqi soldiers allied with the U.S. military were killed in an attack on a dining hall at the Forward Operating Base Marez within the main U.S. military airfield at Mosul. The Pentagon reported that 72 other personnel were injured in the attack carried out by a suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest and the uniform of the Iraqi security services. The Islamist insurgent group Army of Ansar al-Sunna (a branch of Ansar al-Islam) took credit for the attack in an internet statement.

In [October] of 2005, the Iraq Interior Department has been attempting to fire the police chief of Mosul, and the local Mosul Sunni leaders have been threatening to turn the city back over to the insurgents (in response to what they see as a Kurdish grab for control over the police).

See also

External links

A Star from Mosul

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