Mosul mō´səl, mōso͞ol´ [key], Arab. al Mawsil, city (1987 pop. 664,221), provincial capital, N Iraq, on the Tigris River, opposite the ruins of Nineveh. It is the largest city in N Iraq and the third largest city in the country. Trade in agricultural goods and exploitation of oil in the nearby oil fields are the two main occupations of the inhabitants. Mosul has an oil refinery; its productivity in the 1980s was hindered by the Iran-Iraq War. While most of the urban population is Arab, the surrounding region has a large Kurdish population. The city is the seat of Mosul Univ. and a center of Nestorian Christianity.

Mosul was the chief city of N Mesopotamia from the 8th to 13th cent., when it was devastated by the Mongols. The city remained poor and shabby through its occupation by the Persians (1508) and the Turks (1534–1918). Under the British occupation and mandate (1918–32) it regained its stature as the chief city of the region. Its possession by Iraq was disputed by Turkey (1923–25) but was confirmed by the League of Nations (1926). Many of Mosul's historic mosques and shrines as well as an ancient monastery nearby were destroyed by Islamic State militants after they captured the city in 2014. The Iraqi government began an offensive to retake Mosul in late 2016, winning control of the city by mid-2017. Thousands died and much of W Mosul, including the old city, was reduced to rubble in the fighting.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Iraq Political Geography