City ‘fully liberated’ from Islamic State after month-long battle

A senior Iraqi commander has declared that the city of Fallujah is “fully liberated” from Islamic State group militants, after a military operation lasting over a month.

Iraqi troops have entered the north-western al-Julan neighbourhood, the last area of Fallujah to remain under IS control, said the head of the counterterrorism forces in the operation, Lieutenant General Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi.

Lt Gen al-Saadi said the operation, which began in late May, “is done and the city is fully liberated”. The Iraqi army was backed by US-led coalition airstrikes and paramilitary troops, mostly Shiite militias.

“From the centre of al-Julan neighbourhood, we congratulate the Iraqi people and the commander in chief... and declare that the Fallujah fight is over,” he told Iraqi state TV, flanked by military officers and soldiers. Some of the soldiers were shooting in the air, chanting and waving the Iraqi flag.

He added that troops will start working on removing bombs from the city’s streets and buildings.

The announcement comes more than a week after Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory in Fallujah after Iraqi forces advanced into the city centre and took control of a government complex.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, more than 85,000 people have fled Fallujah and the surrounding area since the offensive began.

Fallujah has been under the control of Islamic State militants since January 2014.

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