The removal from Mosul of a statue of a prominent Iraqi general has caused outrage among the public who praise his efforts to combat ISIS.
Lt Gen Abdulwahab Al Saadi, 56, was relieved of his post on Friday as deputy head of the elite Counter-Terrorism Service on Friday and transferred to the defence ministry, without any reason being given.
The Iraqi general said he did not know the reasons for the transfer and would prefer to retire.
A covered statue of Lt Gen Al Saadi in eastern Mosul, which was yet to be unveiled due to an ongoing dispute with those who oppose the general, was then taken down on Monday morning, civilians told The National.
It followed attempts by his supporters to uncover it.
“I don’t know what to say, there are no words. This man won the hearts of many before he won the battle of Mosul, retaking the city back from ISIS,” said Ali Al Baroodi, a university professor and photographer.
Many Iraqis consider Lt Gen Al Saadi a national hero for his role in recapturing the city in 2017. He was wounded four times in battles against the extremists.
However, with his strong views on the need to tackle corruption within the counter terrorism services and refusal to back one political party has made him unpopular among officials in Baghdad.
On Sunday, hundreds of Iraqis came out to the streets of Mosul in solidarity with the general.
“We want him back, he is the son of Iraq,” Eman Al Ali, a homemaker, said as she wept for Lit Gen Al Saadi.
“Why don't the leaders in Baghdad appreciate honourable individuals that want to do good for their country?” she said.
The development came as the defence ministry issued a statement on Monday claiming that Lit Gen Al Saadi had started his new position.
Officials in Baghdad are yet to answer questions about the sidelining of the general.
Lit Gen Al Saadi was removed from his post because he broke sectarian barriers in Mosul, said Naif Al Shammari, a member of parliament.
Former Iraqi Defence Minister Khalid Al Obeidi said the way the general has been sidelined “raises more than one question” and said the winners will be “the terrorists and ISIS outlaw”.
"Is this how the state rewards the fighters who defended their homeland?” the previous Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi said on Twitter.