Thursday 22 August 2019

Iraqi forces liberate last town held by Islamic State

Iraqi security forces celebrate in Rawah (AP)
Iraqi security forces celebrate in Rawah (AP)
The flag of the Islamic State group in central Rawah (AP)

Iraqi forces backed by the US-led coalition have retaken the last town in the country held by the Islamic State group, more than three years after the militants stormed nearly a third of Iraqi territory, officials said.

At dawn, Iraqi military units and local tribal fighters pushed into the western neighbourhoods of Rawah in western Anbar province, and after just five hours of fighting they retook the town, according to Brigadier General Yahya Rasool.

Rawah, 175 miles north west of Baghdad, lies along the Euphrates River Valley near the border town of Qaim that Iraqi forces retook from IS earlier this month.

US-led coalition forces supported the operations to retake Rawah and Qaim with intelligence, air strikes and advisers, coalition spokesman Ryan Dillon said.

IS blitzed across Iraq's north and west in the summer of 2014, capturing Iraq's second-largest city of Mosul and advancing to the edges of the capital, Baghdad.

Later that year the US began a campaign of air strikes against the militants that aided Iraqi territorial gains, allowing the military to retake Mosul in July this year.

All that remains of IS-held Iraq are patches of rural territory in the country's vast western desert along the border with Syria.

IS has been losing ground steadily across the border in Syria as well where its so-called "caliphate" has crumbled with the loss of the city of Raqqa, the group's one-time de facto capital, which fell to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in October.


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