Iraqi forces recapture last ISIS-held town Rawa

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Iraqi forces captured the border town of Rawa, the last remaining town under ISIS control, on Friday, signaling the complete defeat of the group’s self-proclaimed caliphate.

The capture of the town located 275 kilometers northwest of Baghdad marks the end of ISIS’s era of territorial rule over a so-called caliphate that it proclaimed in 2014 across vast swathes of Iraq and Syria.

Iraqi forces “liberated Rawa entirely, and raised the Iraqi flag over its buildings,” Lieutenant General Abdul Ameer Rasheed Yarallah said in a statement from the Joint Operations Command.

“Operations to liberate Rawa began at dawn,” the Command said in a statement. The launch of the attack as the Syrian army battled for a second day to retake the town of Albu Kamal just across the border.

Iraq’s prime minister, meanwhile, has congratulated his forces on retaking the last Iraqi town from ISIS.

Haider al-Abadi said in a statement released on Friday afternoon that Iraqi forces liberated Rawa in record time and are continuing operations to retake control of Iraq’s western desert and the border area with Syria.

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Rawa borders Syria, whose army declared victory over the militants on Nov. 9, after seizing the last substantial town on the border with Iraq.

"With the liberation of Rawa we can say all the areas in which Daesh is present have been liberated," a military spokesman said, referring to ISIS by an Arabic acronym.

Iraqi forces will now focus on routing militants who fled into the desert and exert control over Iraq’s borders, he said.

Pockets of rural territory in western Iraq, part of the Syrian town of Boukamal, as well as territory near Damascus and in Hama province are all that remain of the militants’ so-called “caliphate” that once stretched from northern Syria to the edges of Baghdad.

The US-led coalition battling the militants said on Thursday that they had lost 95 percent of the cross-border territories the size of Britain that they declared in Iraq and Syria in 2014.