WASHINGTON – Iraq raised its flag over a war-battered government complex in central Ramadi on Monday, declaring the city liberated of Islamic State control and its army strong enough to fight the terrorist organization at its Iraqi base in Mosul.
The strategic victory is a rare advancement of the Iraqi armed forces, which retreated in droves from much of the territory that Islamic State raided in 2014 and now controls in its sovereign borders.
Iraqi state television proudly displayed the hoisting of its flag as confirmation of the successful operation.
But the broadcast also showed the fight is not completely over, with plumes of black smoke visible and gunfire audible in the background. Beyond statements from the Iraqi government and from its media outlets, few have claimed the city is fully liberated. And US military officials are cautioning that the battle may not yet be won.
Ramadi is the capital of Iraq’s Al Anbar province, only 120 km. down the road from Baghdad.
“Yes, the city of Ramadi has been liberated,” joint operations spokesman Brig.- Gen. Yahya Rasool said in a televised statement. “The Iraqi counter-terrorism forces have raised the Iraqi flag over the government complex.”