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Iraq: PM Abadi declares victory over ISIL in Fallujah

Iraqi PM says security forces have retaken most of Fallujah and only "small pockets" of ISIL remain within the city.

victory over ISIL

Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi says Iraqi forces have retaken most of Fallujah from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), as clearing operations are under way to flush out the armed group's remaining fighters in the city.

The government lost control of Fallujah in 2014, months before ISIL, also known as ISIS, took Iraq's second largest city, Mosul, and swept across large parts of the country.

"We promised you the liberation of Fallujah and we retook it. Our security forces control the city except for small pockets that need to be cleared within the coming hours," Abadi said on Friday in a brief address on state TV.

"Fallujah has returned to the nation and Mosul is the next battle," Abadi also said on Twitter. "Daesh will be defeated," he added, using an Arabic acronym for ISIL.

Earlier on Friday, Iraqi forces said they had entered the centre of Fallujah, nearly four weeks after the start of a US-backed offensive to retake the Sunni city 50km west of the capital, Baghdad.

"The counterterrorism service and the rapid response forces have retaken the government compound in the centre of Fallujah," the operation's overall commander, Lieutenant-General Abdulwahab al-Saadi, told the AFP news agency.

The Iraqi flag is now raised on top of the building, symbolising government control.

Raed Shaker Jawdat, Iraq's federal police chief, confirmed the advance.

"The liberation of the government compound, which is the main landmark in the city, symbolises the restoration of the state's authority" in Fallujah, he said.

Both commanders said their forces had met limited resistance from ISIL fighters during the push into the city centre.
 
Government troops and Shia units known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces are leading the campaign to retake the Sunni city from ISIL. They are supported by US-led coalition air strikes.

Although the Iraqi government previously said it had a particular strategy to establish safe corridors for civilians in the city centre to leave, many have been reluctant to go for fear of how they may be treated by the Shia units.

Thousands have fled the city and its surrounding areas since the military offensive was launched on May 23, but the UN says more than 50,000 are still trapped inside the city.

Those escaping the fighting have been detained and kept at detetion facilities, with reports of abuse and violations by government forces and Shia fighters.

The UN says detention facilities lack basic services, including medicine and food.

The humanitarian crisis in Iraq has been dubbed  one of the world's worst  by the UN.

Since the beginning of the present conflict in 2014, more than 3.4 million people have been internally displaced and 2.6 million have fled Iraq.


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