Major Islamic State stronghold 'liberated' by Iraqi forces

Major Islamic State stronghold 'liberated' by Iraqi forces
Iraq declared the Iraqi city of Ramadi liberated after its forces faced no resistance at a key government complex, while an airstrike killed IS' Nineveh governor in Mosul.
3 min read
28 December, 2015
Iraq declares the Iraqi city of Ramadi liberated from Islamic State group [AFP]
The Iraqi city of Ramadi has been officially liberated, while a US airstrike killed Islamic State group's governor of Nineveh province.

"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 announced on state television on Monday.

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

The government complex in central Ramadi's Huz district was an IS stronghold. Its capture was key to liberating the devastated city.

Earlier in the day, two suicide attacks slowed down an operation by the Iraqi Army to clear the flashpoint government complex from booby traps and explosive devices.
Two suicide bombers detonated their explosive belts soon after the joint Iraqi force entered the federal court building

More than two dozen Iraqi army and allied tribal forces were killed or injured after two suicide bombers detonated their explosive belts soon after the joint Iraqi force entered the federal court building inside the government complex.

The army no longer faced any resistance from IS in the compound and have captured several IS militants, who said they were abandoned by their leaders in the past few days.

The operation to defuse the countless bombs and traps IS left behind in the city continues.

"Daesh (IS) has planted more than 300 explosive devices on the roads and in the buildings of the government complex," said Brigadier General Majid al-Fatlawi of the army's 8th division.

IS had an estimated force of around 400 fighters to defend central Ramadi a week ago. It is not clear how many were killed and how many were able to pull back to positions outside the city.

IS Nineveh governor killed

A US airstrike targeted and killed Islamic State group's top man in Iraq's Nineveh province, Ismail al-Sabawi.

Sabawi, also known as Abu Mohammad al-Mosuli, was targeted by a US airstrike as he passed on the Fourth Bridge in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

He was killed along with six other companions including a prominent non-Arab member of the extremist organisation, a local source told The New Arab.

This information was confirmed by the Directorate of Information of the Iraqi Ministry of Interior through Colonel Nadhem Hussein who told The New Arab that the airstrike was conducted in coordination and collaboration with the Iraqi Intelligence Service.

Mosuli was one of the leaders close to the IS chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and was the group's top man in Nineveh province, acting as its "governor," according to Hussein.

Mosul next?

The US-led anti-IS coalition praised the performance of the Iraqi forces in retaking Ramadi, an operation in which it played a significant role, training local forces, arming them and carrying out what it said were 600 air strikes since July.

The speaker of Iraq's parliament was one of the first top officials to congratulate the security forces on their victory late on Sunday.

"This great victory has broken the back of Daesh and represents a launchpad for the liberation of Nineveh," Salim al-Juburi said in a statement.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi also said on Friday that Mosul will be liberated after the "victory in Ramadi."

Nineveh is home to Iraq's second city of Mosul, from which IS supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed his "caliphate" straddling Iraq and Syria more than a year and a half ago.

Agencies contributed to this report