Iraq launches attack on last IS-held town in country
Iraqi forces have launched an assault on Rawa, the last town in the country held by the Islamic State group.
Baghdad's army announced the start of the operation to retake the small Euphrates valley town, after a successful campaign in neighbouring al-Qaim.
"Operations to liberate Rawa began at dawn," the Joint Operations Command said in a statement.
The launch of the attack comes as Syrian regime forces battled for a second day to retake the town of Albu Kamal just across the border.
An Iraqi army general contacted by AFP at the front predicted that the battle for Rawa would be swift as "the majority of IS fighters who were in the town have fled towards the Syrian border."
The Rawa pocket would mark the final battleground defeat of IS in Iraq.
Many of the group's top leaders have been killed as Syrian and Iraqi forces with backing from Russia, Iran and a US-led coalition rolled back the territorial losses that saw the militants declare a "caliphate" roughly the size of Britain.
The US-led coalition said on Thursday IS had lost 95 percent of its territory seized in 2014.
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But the whereabouts of self-proclaimed "caliph" Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi remains unclear. He has been reported killed or wounded many times but IS has never offered any confirmation.
IS's occupation of northern Iraq and the battle to defeat it has caused more than $100 billion worth of damage, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Saturday.
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