Iraqi forces retake the country’s last IS-held town
By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA
BAGHDAD — Iraqi forces backed by the U.S.-led coalition retook on Friday the last town in the country that was held by the Islamic State group, more than three years after the militants stormed nearly a third of Iraq’s territory, the Defense Ministry said.
At dawn, military units and local tribal fighters pushed into the western neighborhoods of Rawah in western Anbar province, and after just five hours of fighting they retook the town, according to Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, the ministry’s spokesman.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi congratulated his forces on retaking Rawah. In a statement released on Friday afternoon, Al-Abadi said Iraqi forces liberated Rawah in record time and were continuing operations to retake control of Iraq’s western desert and the border area with Syria.
Rawah, 175 miles northwest of Baghdad, lies along the Euphrates River Valley near the border town of Qaim that Iraqi forces retook from IS earlier this month.
U.S.-led coalition forces supported the operations to retake Rawah and Qaim with intelligence, airstrikes 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 Iraqi capital, Baghdad. Later that year the United States began a campaign of airstrikes against the militants that fueled Iraqi territorial gains, allowing the military to retake Mosul in July this year.
All that now remains of IS-held Iraq are patches of rural territory in the country’s vast western desert along the border with Syria.
IS has steadily been losing ground across the border in Syria as well where its so-called “caliphate” has basically crumbled with the loss of the city of Raqqa, the former Islamic State group’s capital, which fell to the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in October.
Both the U.S. and Russia have […]