Abadi: victory over Islamic State to be declared after clearing desert

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi

Baghdad ( Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said that his country has defeated Islamic State over the military level, but will declare final victory after desert areas are purged of militants.

In his weekly press conference on Tuesday, Abadi said “Daesh (Islamic State) has been crushed militarily”, adding that he will declare final victory over the group after “ending the purging operations in the desert”.

Last Friday, Iraqi forces recaptured Anbar’s western town of Rawa, the very last bastion under Islamic State control. But some runaway militants are thought to be at desert areas near the borders with Syria, and Iraqi commanders said recently they were aiming to impose control over the borderline.

Since October 2016, Iraqi forces, backed by a U.S.-led coalition and paramilitary troops, launched a multi-phased offensive to retake territories Islamic State had occupied in 2014 to proclaim a self-styled “Islamic Caliphate”. Since then, forces took back the group’s former capital, Mosul, the town of Tal Afar, Kirkuk’s Hawija, and Anbar’s Annah, Rawa and Qaim.

The war against IS has displaced nearly five million people, with tens of thousands of civilians and militants killed since the launch of the offensives to recapture occupied cities.

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