Iraqi forces retake final city beneath Islamic State management

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Iraqi forces proceed to combat within the desert and work towards securing the close by border with Syria. (Moadh Al-Dulaimi/AFP/Getty Images)

BAGHDAD — Government forces wrested again the ultimate piece of the Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Iraq, the nation’s army stated Friday, reclaiming the small city of Rawa close to the border with Syria.

The Islamic State extremist group, which at its peak in 2014 held about one-third of Iraq, together with giant cities similar to Mosul, Tikrit and Fallujah, is now scattered and severely diminished. With the lack of Rawa, the militants can now not declare to carry territory in Iraq and are rapidly ceding floor in Syria as properly.

Still, Iraqi officers warn, the Islamic State poses a risk because it turns to extra conventional terrorist ways. Since dropping its de facto capital of Mosul in July, the group has been in a position to stage lethal suicide bombings and its gunmen have struck civilians all through Iraq.

Rawa is a small and sparsely populated city about 68 miles east of the Syrian border. It was surrounded by Iraqi forces for a number of weeks as they labored to clear the close by cities of Qaim and Ana. Iraqi troops, backed by militia fighters and U.S. airstrikes, entered Rawa early Friday and encountered little resistance, commanders stated.

Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, a spokesman for the Iraqi forces, stated the combat in Rawa lasted about 5 hours after troops entered the city. He stated “a limited number” of militants had been inside Rawa and that they “couldn’t withstand our forces.”

“Some of them died and others fled toward the desert,” he added.

Rasool stated fight operations are ongoing, with troops chasing fleeing militants into the huge western Anbar desert. He stated that since there are not any civilians within the desert, authorities forces can use heavy airstrikes to root out the remaining pockets of resistance.

On Friday afternoon, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi congratulated Iraqi forces for his or her achievement “in record time.” But his badertion stopped wanting declaring full victory over the Islamic State.

He stated troops will proceed to combat within the desert and work towards securing the close by border with Syria.

“Daesh crumbles!” a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition in opposition to the Islamic State stated in a Twitter put up, utilizing the Arabic acronym for the militant group. “Iraqi Security Forces liberate Rawa, last urban area in Iraq held by ISIS.”

Though small and largely devoid of their unique residents, who slowly left throughout greater than three years of Islamic State occupation, the cities of Qaim, Rawa and Ana signify a vital strategic win for Iraq.

The three cities, which sit alongside the Euphrates River, are the gateway to Syria farther west. Controlling them basically cuts the Islamic State’s potential to maneuver fighters, automobiles and different badets between Iraq and the territory it nonetheless nominally controls in jap Syria.

While state tv heralded the victory in Rawa, the general public’s response to the event was usually muted.

Since successful again Mosul in July, and later the smaller however populous cities of Tal Afar and Hawijah, Iraqis have largely thought of themselves to be on a post-Islamic-State footing — grappling with the aftermath of the damaging battles that it took to uproot the militants.

Large swaths of Mosul stay completely devastated, whereas primary electrical energy and water companies have but to return to areas retaken greater than a yr in the past in Fallujah.

About three.2 million folks displaced by the combating stay in camps, and impartial organizations say the civilian loss of life toll from the U.S.-led air conflict is far greater than has been introduced.

El-Ghobashy reported from Cairo.

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