The ISIS stronghold of Ramadi has been ‘fully liberated’ by 10,000 Iraqi soldiers who took six days to wrestle the city from just 300 jihadis.
The extremists locked themselves into a government complex yesterday, from where they tried to hold off an advancing army backed by US-led airstrikes.
They stopped firing at 8am this morning, said Brigadier General Ahmed al-Belawi, who believes they were either killed or have escaped.
The victory will be a huge boost to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and his army, who lost large parts of the country to ISIS last June.
The terror group conquered Ramadi, 60 miles west of the capital Baghdad, with just 600 fighters in May, even though they were outnumbered ten to one by a hapless Iraqi army.
Last night, Iraqi state television showed Iraqis on the streets of Baghdad, Karbala and other cities celebrating the victory in Ramadi.
‘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.
He said troops had completely retaken the city but another Iraqi General, Ismail al-Mahlawi, said they had only taken a strategic government complex and some areas remained under ISIS control.
The Speaker of Iraqi Parliament, Salim al-Juburi, congratulated the army on a ‘great victory’ and said it provided a ‘launchpad for the liberation of Nineveh’.
Nineveh is home to Iraq’s second city of Mosul, from where ISIS leader Baghdadi made one of his few public statements and declared a ‘caliphate’ more than a year ago. It is said to be the biggest city under ISIS control in either Iraq or Syria.
Kurdish forces took control of the road between Mosul and ISIS’s de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria, after the group was driven out of the northern Iraqi province of Sinjar last month.
The army’s advance into Ramadi was slowed by hundreds of booby traps, car bombs and snipers hidden around the city.
The city, which straddles the borders of Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, was seen as a strategic heartland for ISIS and a potential threat to Baghdad.
A senior Iraqi officer said several ISIS fighters were killed around the government complex where they are hiding.
He added: ‘Seven of our forces were also wounded in these clashes and as a result of the explosion of mines.’
At least five Iraqi soldiers are thought to have been killed around Ramadi since Friday. And while the army did not release casualty figures, medics said almost 100 troops were taken to hospitals in Baghdad on Sunday.
Read more: Daily Mail