Published: Fri, November 17, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Iraqi forces liberate IS urban stronghold in Rawa in western Iraq

Iraqi forces liberate IS urban stronghold in Rawa in western Iraq

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 almost a third of Iraqi territory, officials said.

Iraqi forces "liberated Rawa entirely, and raised the Iraqi flag over its buildings", Lieutenant General Abdul Ameer Rasheed Yarallah said in a statement from the Joint Operations Command.

Maj. -Gen. Noman al-Zubaie, the chief of the Iraqi army's Seventh Division told newsmen that the advance came hours after Iraq launched a new attack aimed at expelling Islamic State from Rawa near the border with Syria.

An army general contacted by AFP at the front had predicted that the battle would be swift as "the majority of IS fighters who were in the town have fled towards the Syrian border".

The US-led coalition battling ISIL said on Thursday that the group had lost nearly all of its territory after a three-year campaign.

The JOC said appeals had been made for several days to the town's Sunni Arab residents to listen to radio broadcasts for instructions on what to do when the army entered.

Maps of Syria and Iraq showing changes in the territory controlled by the Islamic State group since 2015
Iraqi forces liberate IS urban stronghold in Rawa in western Iraq

Meanwhile, U.S. -backed Kurdish-led forces are also approaching Boukamal from the eastern side of the Euphrates.

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.

The capture of the town marks the end of Islamic State's era of territorial rule over a so-called caliphate that it proclaimed in 2014 across vast swathes of Iraq and Syria.

The group still remains active in the shrinking territories which is still controls.

"Since our coalition was formed in 2014, ISIS has lost 95 per cent of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria", Washington's envoy to the coalition, Brett McGurk, said after a meeting in Jordan.

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