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Fallujah liberated from IS: Iraqi PM

dpadpa 17/06/2016

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi says Iraqi forces have liberated the city of Fallujah from Islamic State militants.

Iraq's western city of Fallujah has been "liberated" from the Islamic State group, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi says, marking a major setback to the extremist militia.

"Fallujah has returned to the homeland. Our troops are in control of the city and have tightened their grip on its centre," al-Abadi said in a televised address.

His announcement came hours after US-backed Iraqi forces retook key installations, including a government compound and a major hospital, in the centre of Fallujah from IS.

Fallujah, around 50 kilometres west of the capital Baghdad, was the first Iraqi city to fall to IS in early 2014.

"Operations in Fallujah continue," Pentagon spokesman Matthew Allen said in statement.

"The Iraqi-led ground forces have taken the town centre and are working to eliminate remaining (IS) elements within the city."

The hardline jihadists still control areas in Iraq's Sunni Arab north and west, including Mosul, the country's second-largest city.

Al-Abadi on Friday vowed that Mosul will be the next target of the Iraqi forces.

"There is no place for Daesh in Iraq," he said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

"Leave our country. Iraq is only for Iraqis."

He added that there are still some areas inside Fallujah that need to "be cleansed" from militants.

General Talib Shaghati Mshari al-Kenani, who heads the Joint Operations Command waging Iraq's war against IS, said the military had information that residents inside Mosul, estimated at more than one million, were preparing to rise up against the insurgents and was in contact with them to synchronise such action with an external military assault.

"Co-operation and co-ordination with Mosul residents will contribute in a big way to the armed forces in liberating the city from Daesh," he said, but gave no details.

Groups inside Mosul have reportedly scrawled anti-IS graffiti in public places and attacked militants at checkpoints, but there have not been widespread acts of resistance.

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