Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has urged all Iraqis to celebrate the recapture of Fallujah during a visit to the city and has vowed the national flag will be raised in Mosul soon.
Iraqi forces took the last positions of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) in Fallujah on Sunday, establishing full control over one of the group’s most emblematic bastions after a month-long operation.
“I call on all Iraqis wherever they are to get out and celebrate,” he told Iraqiya state television, standing in front of Fallujah’s main hospital with an Iraqi flag around his neck.
Abadi had already declared victory on June 17 after ISIL defences collapsed, with Iraqi forces facing only limited resistance in subsequent clearing operations.
If true, Mosul, Iraq’s second city, is the last remaining major hub of ISIL following the recapture of Fallujah.
The offensive saw tens of thousands of civilians risk death to flee their homes, leaving Iraq to grapple with a humanitarian crisis as its forces prepare to attack Mosul.
Victory for the security forces in Fallujah came when elite forces retook Jolan, a northwestern neighbourhood where the last ISIL fighters in the city were believed to be holed up.
“It did not take more than two hours for CTS to retake Jolan,” said Sabah al-Noman, spokesman for the elite counterterrorism service that has been leading the fight.
“Daesh did not fire a single bullet,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIL. “This proves that Daesh was defeated even before our forces got there.”
Several other senior military commanders said only small pockets of ISIL fighters remained in the Fallujah area.