November 17, 2017 8:49 pm
Syria’s army has also declared victory against IslamicState, but last week militants re-infiltrated Albu Kamal, near the border from Iraq, and are still fighting there, as well as in some villages and desert areas nearby.
“I congratulate our heroic forces and the Iraqi people on the liberation of Rawa. The success of our forces, in record time and with excellent planning, shows their strength. Our armed forces continue to secure the Jazira and desert area and the Iraqi border. Total victory is near,” he said.
A video issued by the military showed Iraqiforces sending a message to Rawa’s residents via radio which said: “Daesh has ended for good, and now the age of Iraq begins,” referring to the Sunni militant group by an Arabic acronym.
“With the liberation of Rawa we can say all the areas in which Daesh is present have been liberated,” a military spokesman said.
Rawa borders Syria, whose army seized the last substantial town on the border with Iraq, Albu Kamal.
Albu Kamal shares a border crossing with al-Qaim in Iraq. The militants lost control of the border crossing earlier this month, dealing a critical blow to the organization, which had long relied on the route to move its fighters and equipment.
The group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is believed to be hiding in the stretch of desert which runs along the border of both countries.
Driven this year from its two de facto capitals — Iraq’s Mosul and Syria’s Raqqa — IslamicState was progressively squeezed into an ever-shrinking pocket of desert, straddling the frontier between the two countries, by enemies that include most regional states and global powers.
Iraq has been carrying out its final campaign to crush the IslamicState caliphate while also mounting a military offensive in the north against the Kurds who held an independence referendum in September.
However, IslamicState’s defeat does not mean civilians are now safe, the International Rescue Committee said. Nearly 3.2 million people are unable or unwilling to return home after years of displacement and over 11 million are in need of vital humanitarian assistance, it said.
“Today marks a historic day for the people of Iraq. It is, however, vital that the international community does not view the end of (IslamicState) territorial control as the end of their responsibility to the Iraqi people who have endured years of conflict and face a long, difficult recovery,” the group’s Iraq Country Director Wendy Taeuber said in a statement.
Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; Writing by Ahmed Aboulenein and Raya Jalabi; Editing by Angus MacSwan/Jeremy Gaunt
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