In Ramadi city, Iraq, the country’s military flew the Iraqi flag, above the main government complex in the city.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Monday that Islamic State would be defeated in 2016 with the army planning to move on Mosul.
Iraqi forces, backed by U.S.-led airstrikes, drove IS militants out of the city center on Monday and raised the Iraqi flag over the government complex.
All the bridges leading into Ramadi had been destroyed before the advance began, US and Iraqi officials said.
U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry released a written statement Monday commending Iraqi forces for “displaying tremendous perseverance and courage” in the fight to retake Ramadi. The Baghdad government was quick to announce a counter-offensive to retake the city but attempts repeatedly stalled.
American officials said the US-led coalition backing Iraqi forces had carried out more than 630 air strikes in the area over the past six months and provided training and equipment.
Lacking support from the government, Ramadi residents formed community defenses and even purchased their own weapons to defend the city. The Ramadi battle was at least a partial vindication for Iraq’s army, which humiliated itself by abandoning Mosul as the Islamic State, a Sunni Muslim group, advanced.
The IS group still controls much of northern and western Iraq, as well as vast swaths of neighboring Syria. Ramadi, the largest city, and capital of Al-Anbar, held out until last May when it was finally captured by IS fighters.
Eid Ammash, a spokesman for the Anbar provincial council, said in a telephone interview that troops had been careful about entering the government complex in Ramadi to minimize losses, and a police commander, Mazin al-Dulaimi, said forces had to make sure suicide bombers and snipers were no longer inside.
“There are other military sources that say this might be a bit unrealistic”, Alice says, “based on the fact that Fallujah and Mosul are heavily populated”, unlike Ramadi and other ISIS-controlled cities that have been retaken. Abadi also said “if 2015 was the year of liberation by God willing 2015 would be the year of the final victory and the year of ending the presence of Daaesh (IS in Arabic) on the land of Iraq”.
State television showed footage late Sunday of Iraqis on the streets of Baghdad, Karbala and other cities celebrating the Ramadi victory.
Al-Mahlawi said the military was helping about 400 families who had been hiding during the fight for the local government complex at the center of Ramadi, a battle that ended Monday morning when the remaining militants fled or were killed.
“We will continue to support the government of Iraq as it re-establishes the security, governance and services the people of Ramadi will need as they return to their city”.
Once a key battleground in the US invasion of Iraq from 2003-2011, the state has become an ISIS stronghold over the past year as the extremist organization expanded deeper into Iraq and Syria.