US, UK hail Iraq’s liberation of Ramadi from IS
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US, UK hail Iraq’s liberation of Ramadi from IS

Kerry hails ‘tremendous perseverance and courage in this fight’; Hammond says jihadists lost 30 percent of territory they held

File: A member of Iraq's elite counterterrorism service flashes the 'V' for 'Victory' sign after Iraqi forces recaptured the city of Ramadi from the Islamic State, December 28, 2015. (AFP/Ahmad al-Rubaye)
File: A member of Iraq's elite counterterrorism service flashes the 'V' for 'Victory' sign after Iraqi forces recaptured the city of Ramadi from the Islamic State, December 28, 2015. (AFP/Ahmad al-Rubaye)

The United States and Britain on Monday welcomed the Iraqi forces’ victory over the Islamic State group in the city of Ramadi.

Iraq had earlier declared that it had liberated Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province west of Baghdad, and was sweeping it for bombs and booby traps left behind by IS fighters.

A US-led military coalition is supporting Iraq’s campaign to drive the Islamic State group from the country.

Concerns have been expressed that the Shiite militia units that supported the government offensive may mistreat the mainly Sunni civilians living in liberated Anbar cities.

But Washington welcomed the victory, which Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said was a step towards the next campaign to liberate the northern city of Mosul in 2016.

“We commend the government of Iraq and the brave Iraqi forces that are displaying tremendous perseverance and courage in this fight,” Secretary of State John Kerry said.

“The United States and the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL have proudly supported this effort with training, advice, and equipment, as well as precision air strikes,” Kerry said.

“That support will continue as the mission in Ramadi is completed and we prepare for post-conflict stabilization.”

General Lloyd Austin, head of US Central Command, which is overseeing the US role in the campaign, said the fall of Ramadi “clearly demonstrates that the enemy is losing momentum as they steadily cede territory.

“Looking ahead, I expect our partners on the ground in both Iraq and Syria, with coalition assistance, to continue to roll back ISIL gains as we work together to defeat this enemy,” he added.

Britain on Monday also congratulated Iraq for its gains.

“This is the latest in a series of significant losses for Daesh. These barbaric terrorists have lost 30 percent of the territory they once held in Iraq,” Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said in a statement.

“They have been driven out of cities across the country by Iraqi forces, with support from the UK and the global coalition.”

British jets have been striking Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria.

“The Royal Air Force’s close air support operations around Ramadi in recent days have played a key role in the battle,” Hammond said.

“We will continue to support the government of Iraq as it reestablishes the security, governance and services the people of Ramadi will need as they return to their city.

“This remains a long fight, but the coalition’s strategy is succeeding. We will continue to stand with the Iraqi people until Daesh is defeated.”

Fighters brandishing rifles danced in Ramadi as top commanders paraded through the streets after recapturing the city they lost to IS in May.

Pockets of jihadists may remain but the army said it no longer faced any resistance and that its main task was to defuse countless bombs and traps.

“Ramadi has been liberated and the armed forces of the counter-terrorism service have raised the Iraqi flag above the government complex,” Brigadier General Yahya Rasool said on television.

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