Iraqi PM tours Ramadi after recapture from ISIL
AFP photoIraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited Ramadi on Dec. 29, a day after federal forces announced the liberation of the city from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), clinching a landmark victory.
Al-Abadi arrived by helicopter in the battle-scarred city, which lies around 100 kilometers west of Baghdad and is the capital of the province of Anbar, an AFP correspondent reported.
Iraqi state TV reported that al-Abadi was in Ramadi but offered no further details. But an Iraqi military commander, Brig. Gen. Ahmed al-Belawi, told The Associated Press that the prime minister kicked off the visit by meeting security and provincial officials for the latest updates.
Across the city, meanwhile, military engineering teams were clearing bombs from the streets and nearby buildings, al-Belawi said, even as sporadic clashes continued in outlying parts of the city.
The premier vowed Dec. 28, after counter-terrorism forces raised the flag above the key government complex in Ramadi, to rid the whole country of ISIL by the end of 2016.
“2016 will be the year of the big and final victory, when Daesh’s presence in Iraq will be terminated,” al-Abadi said in a speech broadcast on state television, using an Arabic acronym for ISIL that the hardline group rejects.
Ramadi, the Anbar provincial capital, fell to ISIL in May, marking a major setback for Iraqi forces and the U.S.-led campaign. The Baghdad government was quick to announce a counter-offensive to retake the city but attempts repeatedly stalled.
Meanwhile, the United States on Dec. 28 welcomed the Iraqi forces’ victory over ISIL in Ramadi.
“We commend the government of Iraq and the brave Iraqi forces that are displaying tremendous perseverance and courage in this fight,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a written statement.
A U.S.-led military coalition is supporting Iraq’s campaign to drive ISIL from the country and carried out 630 air strikes during the Iraqi operation in Ramadi.
A White House official said President Barack Obama, who is on vacation in Hawaii, had been briefed on the battle and had saluted the Iraqi forces’ “courage and determination.”
“We will continue to support our partners fighting against ISIL on the ground until it is defeated,” the official said.
Joining the rank of congratulating Iraq, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Dec. 28 said defeating ISIL in Ramadi was a significant step in the combat against the jihadists.
“The expulsion of ISIL by Iraqi security forces ... is a significant step forward in the campaign to defeat this barbaric group,” Carter said in a statement, according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, other European countries contributing to the U.S.-led coalition against ISIL also commended the Iraqi forces.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond congratulated the Iraqi government after the national flag was raised over the provincial capital of Anbar.
French President François Hollande called the liberation of Ramadi the “most important victory yet” in the fight against the jihadists.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said “it shows once again that ISIL is not unbeatable.”