BAGHDAD, Dec. 9 (Xinhua) — Iraq declared Saturday the liberation of all Iraqi lands from Islamic State (IS) militants after seizing the whole border areas and desert in western Iraq, the Iraqi military said.
“The liberation of all Iraqi lands from the IS has been completed and our heroic forces have tightened their grab on the Iraqi-Syrian border,” Lt. Gen. Abdul Amir Rasheed Yarallah, commander of western Iraq operations, said in a brief statement.
The army forces and the paramilitary Hashd Shaabi brigades, backed by Iraqi helicopter gunships, managed to take control of the whole desert areas between the provinces of Nineveh and Anbar, Yarallah said.
The troops took control of over 90 villages and cleared 16,000 sq km in the last operation during the past 24 hours, he said.
The Iraqi forces are now in control of some 183 km from the Iraq-Syrian border, Yarallah added.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi confirmed in a speech at the International Media Conference in Baghdad that “our forces are in complete control of the Iraqi-Syrian border.”
Abadi also declared the end of military operations against IS militant group, saying that such “victory came through the unity of Iraqis against an enemy (IS group) who wanted to kill our civilization.”
“We have triumphed over Daesh (IS group) in a short time,” Abadi said.
Meanwhile, observers say that the declaration of ending operations against IS group does not mean final victory over the terrorist group which still has the capability to carry out deadly attacks across the country through its sleeper cells.
IS deadly attacks have been dramatically declined after the Iraqi forces defeat the extremist militants from their redoubts in key Iraqi cities and areas in north and west of Iraq.
During the day, a civilian was killed and two bystanders wounded when a roadside bomb went off at a busy street in the city of Tikrit, the capital of Iraq’s northern central province of Salahudin, said a provincial police source.
In Iraq’s western province of Anbar, another roadside bomb struck a civilian car near the city of Heet, some 160 km in west of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, leaving four people killed and two others wounded, the source said.
No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the IS militant group, in most cases, is responsible for such bomb attacks, targeting security forces and civilians in crowded areas, including markets, cafes and mosques across Iraq.
On Nov. 17, the Iraqi forces ended the first phase of the offensive when they drove out IS militants from their last urban stronghold in Iraq and raised the Iraqi flag over the buildings of the city of Rawa and nearby border areas in north of the Euphrates River.
On Oct. 26, security forces started a major offensive to free last IS urban stronghold in Iraq near the Iraqi-Syrian border as well as the vast desert areas in western Iraq.