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Iraqi forces capture last IS-held town in the country

Government troops and paramilitary units liberated the whole of Rawah on Friday [AFP]

Date of publication: 18 November, 2017

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Iraqi forces retook the last town still held by IS, as the militants' self-proclaimed 'caliphate' faces collapse on both sides of the border with Syria.
Iraqi forces and local tribal fighters captured the last town in the country held by Islamic State group, the defence ministry said on Friday, leaving just a slither of territory in the militants' hands.

The forces advanced into the neighbourhoods of Rawah in the Anbar province, according to ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, and retook the area after only five hours of fighting.

Naeem al-Kaoud, an official in the Anbar province, said most militants had fled into neighbouring Syria.

Government troops and paramilitary units "liberated the whole of Rawah and raised the Iraqi flag on all of its official buildings", General Abdelamir Yarallah of Iraq's Joint Operations Command (JOC) said in a statement.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi congratulated the armed forces on the capture of the town in a statement on Friday.

"Our champions freed Rawah in record time and are resuming the combing of the Jazeera region as well as the desert and securing the Iraqi borders," the statement said.

"The liberation of Rawah in few hours shows the power and capability of our armed forces, as well as the successful plans of the battles."

The town of Rawah, which lies on the Euphrates River, stretches over 175 miles [275 kilometres] northwest of the capital Baghdad.

Hisham al-Hashemi, an Iraqi expert on IS, told AFP that after their loss of Rawah, the militants have lost any previous military or administrative powers.

"What has been liberated are the populated areas with demarcated boundaries," Hashemi said.

The militants however remain in control of scraps of desert territory along Iraq's Syria border.

"The seasonal river valleys, the oases, the empty expanses of desert, which make up around four percent of Iraqi territory, are still in the hands of IS."

Following a recent offensive against the militant group, IS has lost 95 percent of their self-declared "caliphate", which it declared in Iraq and Syria in 2014.

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