Iraqi army official declares Ramadi ‘liberated’

Iraqi army official declares Ramadi ‘liberated’

BAGHDAD – Reuters
Iraqi army official declares Ramadi ‘liberated’

A member from the Iraqi security forces holds an Iraqi flag in the city of Ramadi, December 27, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer

Iraq’s counter-terrorism forces have raised the Iraqi flag above the central government complex in the western city of Ramadi, a military spokesman said on Dec. 28, a day after the army declared victory over the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters there. 

“Yes, the city of Ramadi has been liberated. The Iraqi counter terrorism forces have raised the Iraqi flag over the government complex in Anbar,” joint operations spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Rasool said in a statement broadcast on state television. 

Iraqi forces backed by U.S.-led coalition on Dec. 27 took control of the government complex in central Ramadi, the last ISIL stronghold in the western city, Sabah al-Numan, a spokesman for the force leading the fight on the government side, had said. 

“By controlling the complex this means that they [ISIL] have been defeated in Ramadi,” al-Numan was quoted as saying by Reuters. “The next step is to clear pockets that could exist here or there in the city.” 

“The complex is under our complete control, there is no presence whatsoever of Daesh fighters in the complex,” he told Reuters, using an Arabic acronym of ISIL. 

Recapturing Ramadi, which fell to the militants in May, is considered to be one of the most significant victories for Iraq’s armed forces since ISIL swept across a third of the country in 2014.   

Iraqi forces backed by U.S.-led coalition air strikes had punched into the city center on Dec. 22, in a final push to retake the city they lost in May.

The U.S.-led military campaign against ISIL is unable to determine at this time whether Iraqi security forces have cleared Ramadi’s government center, a U.S. defense official speaking on condition of anonymity said on Dec. 27.

“We are unable to confirm at this time whether or not they have cleared the government center,”  a U.S. military official said.