Leaders of the Iraqi army’s 5th Corps told approaching troops they would lay down their arms and give up control of the city, located some 240 miles north of Baghdad, U.S. Central Command spokesman Capt. Frank Thorp said.
“They have made the very wise choice of living for the future of Iraq instead of dying for this Iraqi regime,” he told reporters.
“We’re in the process of deciding whether they will become EPWs [enemy prisoners of war] or just go home,” he added. He said he did not know how many troops composed the 5th Corps.
The capture leaves the city of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s ancestral home, as the last expected major target for coalition forces.
Following the soldiers’ capitulation, some of Mosul’s more than 60,000 residents began plundering government buildings in Iraq’s third-largest city. Many of Mosul’s schools and government offices were either stripped of furniture and other resources or set ablaze, press reports said.
According to the Arab TV network Al Jazeera, the library at Mosul University, home to many rare manuscripts, was also ransacked, despite pleas from mosque loudspeakers to spare public buildings.
Residents set fire to a picture of Saddam Hussein in front of Mosul’s Government House, while others walked out with looted goods, the Associated Press reported.
Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi TV aired images of looting at a Central Bank branch in Mosul as well, with Iraqi currency littering the street and men leaving the building with stacks of money. The bank’s central vaults were pried open, and fights reportedly broke out among looters trying to take stolen money from each other, The New York Times reported.
“What is happening shouldn’t happen,” the AP quoted a local man near the bank as saying. “This is barbaric. This is not Saddam’s money. This is the nation’s and the people’s money.”
The looting follows similar unrest in other Iraqi cities under coalition control, including Baghdad and Kirkuk, the northern Iraqi city captured Thursday by coalition and Kurdish fighters with a similarly small amount of Iraqi resistance.
A Reuters television producer said that the mood on the streets of Mosul was one of celebration, and that Kurdish peshmerga fighters were manning checkpoints throughout the city. However, the AP reports that people whose allegiances are unclear have been traveling through the city’s streets waving guns and shooting out car windows.
One resident told Reuters he was pleased that Saddam’s government had been forced out of Mosul, but said he worried about the city’s future.
“It is a very wonderful moment for us, a historical moment. Saddam tried to destroy our lives here,” Sinan, an agricultural engineer, said, adding, “I wonder about the new government.”
The fall of Mosul comes as U.S. forces began to secure the bountiful oil field in Kirkuk. Once Kirkuk’s fields — capable of pumping some 900,000 barrels of oil per day — are secured, the U.S. will control all of Iraq’s oil, the world’s second-largest crude reserves.
Mam Rostam, a senior Kurdish commander in Kirkuk, located some 155 miles north of Baghdad, said his forces would likely hand over control of the city to the U.S. on Friday.
“Yes, we expect to be leaving when the Americans arrive, and that may well be later today,” he told Reuters.