09242017Headline:

Iraq declares victory in battle for Fallujah, ending ISIS occupation

Iraq's prime minister has declared victory in the military offensive to retake the city of Fallujah, ending an occupation by the Islamic State group that last more 2.5 years. Plans are now being made to retake Mosul.

Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi, speaking in an address on state television late on Friday, said military forces had recaptured city hall and most of the city, with only small pockets of ISIS fighters remaining in some areas.

The battle for Fallujah began on May 23 after Iraqi soldiers, police and Iranian-backed militias surrounded the city. The forces encountered heavy resistance from the Islamic State, despite support from coalition airstrikes, and the operations continued for nearly a month.

Fallujah, located about 55 kilometers (34 miles) west of the capital Baghdad, was the first city to fall to the Islamic State in January 2014. At the time, the group was still known as a relatively small al-Qaeda splinter group and had not yet declared itself a caliphate.

The recapture of Fallujah marks a significant victory in the fight against the Islamic State, which has since January 2014 seized large swaths of territory in Iraq, Syria and Libya. Al-Abadi added Friday night that Mosul, which is the largest city held by the Islamic State, will be the next battle in the fight against ISIS.

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