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Iraqi PM visits Ramadi after forces retake it from ISIS

“The real challenge now will be how to enable residents to return to the city while preventing Islamic State from reinfiltrating sleeper cells who could launch attacks either against security forces or against local tribes they consider to be pro-government”, said Nathaniel Rabkin, managing editor of risk assessment newsletter Inside Iraqi Politics.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited Ramadi on Tuesday to declare that the city has been liberated from control of Islamic State militants, a victory that one army spokesman described as “epic“.

Iraqi state TV reported that al-Abadi was in Ramadi but offered no further details. But an Iraqi military commander, Brig. Gen. Ahmed al-Belawi, told The Associated Press that the prime minister kicked off his tour by meeting with security and provincial officials.

Emboldened by the successful campaign to liberate Ramadi, which government forces lost in May, the Iraqi PM on Monday vowed to free the whole country from insurgent control by the end of 2016.

“2016 will be the year of the big and final victory, when Daesh’s presence in Iraq will be terminated”, al-Abadi said in a speech broadcast on state television, using an Arabic acronym for ISIL that the hardline group rejects.

Monday’s recapture of the government complex is certainly likely to lift the morale of Iraqi forces, who were badly shaken by the city’s fall in May, which came despite months of US-led air strikes and advances against IS elsewhere in the country.

BAGHDAD, Dec 29 (Reuters) – The Iraqi army will need the Kurds’ help to retake Mosul, the largest city under the control of Islamic State with the planned offensive expected to be very challenging in a region home to rival religious and ethnic groups, an Iraqi minister said.

The loss of Ramadi is the third defeat the IS has suffered in Iraq since October, when pro-government forces reclaimed the city of Baiji, which has been cited as a potential base for a future assault on Mosul.

A White House official said President Barack Obama, who is on vacation in Hawaii, had been briefed on the battle and had saluted the Iraqi forces’ “courage and determination”. “We will continue to stand with the Iraqi people until Daesh is defeated”. But there were still pockets of ISIL resistance in and around the city, the army said. Their efforts were also backed by U.S.-led airstrikes.

The situation remains unstable, though, with security forces reportedly clearing away bombs and booby traps left by IS fighters and humanitarian groups unable to enter the city.

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