Despite claims that Ramadi, capital of the Anbar province, has been "fully liberated" from Islamic State (Isis), Iraq's head of military operations in Anbar has said IS (Daesh) still controls part of the city. IS fighters have pulled back from about 70% of the city, but still control the rest, said General Ismail al-Mahlawi.
Around 10,000 Iraqi soldiers have been fighting to retake Ramadi, which is located about 130km (80 miles) west of Baghdad. Progress has been slow because of snipers and booby traps set by IS forces, as well as the destruction of all bridges leading into Ramadi. An Iraqi army officer said 260 improvised explosive devices were defused on Ramadi's northern front on 26 and 27 December.
"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 on Iraqi state TV. But Iraq's forces are not in full control of many districts IS has retreated from, according to an AP report.
The Speaker of Iraqi Parliament, Salim al-Juburi, congratulated the army on a "great victory" in Ramadi, seen as a strategic heartland for IS and a potential threat to Baghdad. Up to 400 IS fighters were thought to be occupying central Ramadi when the operation began on Tuesday, 22 December, and more than 50 of the militants have been killed in the last two days, Iraqi army sources have claimed.
IS took control of Ramadi, 60 miles west of the capital Baghdad, with 600 fighters in May, despite being outnumbered 10-to-1 by the Iraqi army.
IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi addressed followers in an audio recording issued just hours after Iraqi forces liberated Ramadi. He said: "O Muslims, the current battle is not a simple crusade, but a war of all the nations of the infidel nations against the Islamic State. It has never happened in the history of our people that the world has gathered in a single battle like the one taking place today."
Sources told Shafaq News that IS have retreated to Mosul in the north of Iraq and hidden weapons in mosques and residential buildings.