Iraq has declared victory over Islamic State (IS) militants, saying the last remnants of the extremist group have been driven from the country three years after it captured large swaths of Iraqi territory.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said on December 9 that that Iraq has “completely liberated” the country.
“Our enemy wanted to kill our civilization, but we have won through our unity and our determination,” Abadi said of the three-year effort to dislodge IS.
“All Iraqi lands are liberated from terrorist [IS] gangs and our forces completely control the international Iraqi-Syrian border,” General Abdul-Amir Rahid Yar Allah said in a statement.
In 2014, IS seized about one-third of the country. In response, the government, backed by a U.S.-led international coalition, launched a campaign against them.
The United States later on December 9 praised the end of what it called the “vile occupation” of Iraq by IS militants while warning that the group continues to present a threat.
“The Iraqi announcement signals the last remnants of ISIS’s self-proclaimed ‘caliphate’ in Iraq have been erased and the people living in those areas have been freed from ISIS’s brutal control,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, using an alternate acronym for the extremist group.
“The United States joins the government of Iraq in stressing that Iraq’s liberation does not mean the fight against terrorism, and even against ISIS, in Iraq is over,” Nauert added in her statement.
The U.S.-led coalition fighting IS militants in Iraq and Syria welcomed the news on Twitter, saying it congratulates “the people of Iraq on their significant victory.”
“We stand by them as they set the conditions for a secure and prosperous #futureiraq,” the tweet said.
Iraqi forces last month recaptured the last town controlled by IS militants — Rawah, which is located near the Syrian border — and continued operations to clear areas of Iraq’s western deserts in the ensuing weeks.