Mosūl (Kurdish: Mūsil , Arabic: موصل, al Mawsil) or Nineveh (Syriac: ܢܝܢܘܐ) is a city in northern Iraq/Central Assyria. It stands on the right bank of the Tigris River, some 350 km (220 miles) northwest of Baghdad.
The population of the area is largely Kurdish, but the majority of the city's inhabitants are Arabs. In 1987 the city's population was 664,221 people; the 2002 population estimate was 1,739,800. It is the nation's third largest city, after Baghdad and Basra.
The fabric muslin was long manufactured here and is named for this city. Another historic important product of the area is Mosul marble. In Marco Polo's travel journal he states that the people in Italy with the surname Mussolini are descendants of merchants from the city of Mosul.
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 Ninevah (now the town of Ninewa).
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
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 remains the centre of one of Iraq's most important oilfields.
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.
Mosul after Saddam
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 briefly occupied it, much to the alarm of Turkey (which feared that Mosul's oil wealth might fund a Kurdish bid for independence), before being replaced by occupying forces of the United States.
On April 15, 2003, U.S. troops opened fire on a mob of anti-occupation protesters in Mosul after members of the crowd threw stones and fired guns at an U.S. controlled building. At least ten Iraqis were killed and many more were injured. Most of those killed were unarmed. Some call this incident the Mosul massacre.
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 and is currently the home of the Army's First Stryker Brigade .
During the 2003 occupation of Iraq, AFN Iraq ("Freedom Radio") broadcast news and entertainment within Mosul, among other locations.
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.