WASHINGTON – The Iraqi government claimed victory over ISIS in the northern city of Hawija Thursday, retaking the one of the two remaining militant strongholds in Iraq — three years after the group swept across the country seizing a third of its territory.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, in a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, called the liberation of Hawija a “victory not just for Iraq but for the whole world.”
The battle for the city lasted for 14 days, and was waged by Iraqi government troops backed by the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition and Iranian-trained and armed Shia paramilitary groups known as Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).
The U.S.-led coalition said that some 1,000 ISIS militants surrendered during the last several days.
“Our Iraqi partners fought bravely and professionally against a brutal and determined enemy, safeguarding innocent civilians throughout the entire campaign. Thanks to their efforts, Hawijah will return to local governance and security,” said Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, the commanding general of the U.S.-led counter-ISIS coalition.
The operation occurred concurrently with that for the final ISIS held pocket in Iraq, the western Anbar province close to the border with Syria.