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Iraq Celebrates Victory Over Islamic State With Parade

  • VOA News

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi delivers speech in Baghdad, Dec. 9, 2017.

Iraq celebrated its victory over the Islamic State with a military parade Sunday in the capital, a day after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the successful ouster of the jihadist group from the country.

The parade was not broadcast live and state media were the only ones allowed to attend.

Witnesses say Iraqi army units in the parade marched across the main square in central Baghdad as helicopters and fighter jets flew overhead.

Writing on Twitter, Prime Minster Abadi thanked Iraqi forces "for their service" and remembered "those who gave the ultimate sacrifice."

Abadi had declared Sunday a public holiday.

On Saturday, he announced the three-year war aimed at driving Islamic State out of Iraq was successful and has come to an end.

"Our forces are in complete control of the Iraqi-Syrian border and I therefore announce the end of the war against Daesh [IS]," Abadi said at a conference in Baghdad that was arranged by the Iraqi journalists' union.

The announcement came two days after Russia said it had defeated IS in Syria, where Moscow is supporting the Syrian military.

The Iraqi government said the declaration of victory meant its forces had secured the western desert, in addition to the Iraq-Syria border.

IS fighters seized control of nearly one-third of Iraq in the summer of 2014, threatening the very existence of the Iraqi state. Over the past three-and-one half years, however, Iraqi forces backed by the U.S.-led coalition recaptured all of the territory.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert congratulated the Iraqi people and the country's security forces Saturday, saying, "The Iraqi announcement signals the last remnants of ISIS's self-proclaimed "caliphate" in Iraq have been erased and the people living in those areas have been freed from ISIS's brutal control."

The militant group is still capable of executing insurgent attacks in Iraq, as it did in November when it regained control of Rawah, the last town it held, near the border with Syria before relinquishing it again over the following weeks.

Nauert acknowledged the fight against terrorism in Iraq is not over and said the U.S. would continue to provide the country military support.

"Together, we must be vigilant in countering all extremist ideologies to prevent the return of ISIS or the emergence of threats by other terrorist groups," she said.

Iraq now turns its attention to rebuilding the many areas of the country that were devastated by the fighting and assisting some 3 million Iraqis who are still displaced.

Nauert said the U.S. would continue to provide humanitarian aid to the war-torn country so that displaced Iraqis could return to their homes and "begin to reestablish their lives."