BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A triumphant Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared on Monday that the coming year would see his forces defeat Islamic State, after his military achieved its first major victory since collapsing in the face of the fighters 18 months ago.
Iraqi forces flew the national flag above the main government complex in Ramadi earlier in the day, declaring they had recaptured the city, a provincial capital west of Baghdad that fell to Islamic State fighters in May.
“2016 will be the year of the big and final victory, when Daesh’s presence in Iraq will be terminated,” Abadi said in a speech broadcast on state media, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State that the terrorist group rejects.
“We are coming to liberate Mosul and it will be the fatal and final blow to Daesh,” he added. Mosul, northern Iraq’s main city, is by far the largest population center in the self-proclaimed caliphate Islamic State rules in Iraq and Syria.
The army’s capture of Ramadi, capital of Anbar province in the Euphrates River valley west of Baghdad, marks a major milestone for U.S.-trained forces that crumbled when Islamic State fighters charged into Iraq in June 2014.