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Iraqi army firm to uproot IS militants after seizing Fallujah
The Islamic State (IS) militant group has received a heavy blow when the Iraqi forces reclaimed most of Fallujah, one of its last two strongholds in Iraq.
The vital victory will help unite the widely divided Iraqi factions who are facing relentless political crisis, observers said, but there are still long way and fierce battles ahead to flush out the extremist group in the country.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared on Friday night the victory of Fallujah operations after 25 days of battles around and inside the city.
The statement was released after the forces pushed IS militants out of the government compound in city center.
Heavy Blow to is
Fallujah, some 50 km west of the Iraqi capital Baghdad and a bastion of anti-government insurgent groups after 2003, was one of the first major cities in Iraq to fall to IS control in early 2014. It has been an important base for IS to launch deadly attacks in Baghdad since then.
"Strategically, the success to drive out IS militants from Fallujah means that IS will not be close to Baghdad," security expert Brigadier Hazim al-Jubouri told Xinhua.
The liberation would also mean that IS has lost a strategic location in central Iraq that enable the group of access to the country's northern and southern regions from the Iraqi-Syrian border.
"Such geographic location was vital to IS as the city could constitute direct threat to all the central and southern provinces," Jubouri added.
Moreover, recapturing Fallujah is seen as substantial loss for IS due to the symbolic position for the city as the center of resistance to the U.S.-led troops as well as against the political regime in the country that has been set up by the White House after 2003.
And it would bolster the confidence of the Iraqi security forces, which cleared Anbar's provincial capital city of Ramadi in December and earlier freed several cities in Salahudin province, including its capital Tikrit. IS has lost some 45 percent of territories it once held in Iraq after June 2014.
"The recent victories, including recapturing Fallujah, would build momentum for the security forces to advance toward Mosul," Jubouri said.
On Saturday, the Iraqi Joint Operations Command said in a statement that a total of 420 IS militants were killed since the start of Fallujah operations on May 23.
Tough Battles Ahead
Observers said retaking Fallujah will not mean the end of IS presence in Iraq as the country's second largest city Mosul, as well as the vast desert in western and northwestern of the country, is still in IS control.
Battles in Anbar province, which constitutes around one-third of Iraq, would continue as the militants will likely relocate their positions in the vast desert, where the government forces are not able to control.
"Recapturing the desert would help isolate Mosul, making it difficult for militants to get reinforcements when Iraqi forces attack the city," Jubouri said.
"The battle of Fallujah is not the end of the story," he added.
For the moment, fighting in Fallujah is expected to last several weeks.
"Our troops have fulfilled their promise and freed the city of Fallujah, and nothing remained except for some pockets that still need to be cleared in the coming hours," Abadi said while addressing the nation on the state-run Iraqiya television on Friday night.
He said the army will soon start their advance toward the northern city of Mosul.
"We congratulate all Iraqis on this victory, and (another) victory is close, very close with God willing in Mosul to drive out the last IS militant from the land of Iraq," Abadi said.
On Saturday, a security source told Xinhua that security forces with dozens of tanks and armored vehicles have moved from Baiji town, some 200 km north of Baghdad, toward the IS-held town of Qayyara, some 50 km south of Mosul.
The troops are ordered to take Qayyara and the nearby airport which will be used by the troops as a base to liberate Mosul, the source said.
Victory to Ease Political Crisis
Ibrahim al-Ameri, a political analyst based in Baghdad, wandered whether the latest victory could completely solve the political differences that paralyzed the government and political reforms, as the country has been struggling to fight IS to free swathes of territories in northern and western regions.
In the recent months, Iraq has witnesses a series of protests and chaos that erupted against the corruption as the country is dire need to respond to an economic crisis sparked in part by a plunge in global oil prices.
"The Iraqi government was in an urgent need of military victories to shift the people's focus from the reform demands to counterterrorism of IS," Ameri said.
[Source: By Jamal Hashim, Xinhua, Baghdad, 18Jun16]
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|This document has been published on 20Jun16 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.|