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Iraq claims 'liberation' of Hawija from Islamic State in 'victory for the world'

Government forces have retaken the northern town of Hawija from the Islamic State group, one of the militant group's last strongholds in Iraq, the country's prime minister has said.

Haider al-Abadi said in Paris on Thursday that the fight against IS will now focus on the border zone with Syria.

"I want to announce the liberation of the city of Hawija today," he said, calling it a "victory not just for Iraq but for the whole world".

Plans to retake Hawija had been complicated by political wrangling among the Iraqi security forces, Shiite armed groups and the Kurdish peshmerga troops.

The town is part of the Kirkuk governorate, which is disputed between the central government in Baghdad and the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region.

Iraqi forces launched the operation to retake the town, which lies 150 miles north of Baghdad, late last month just two days after Iraqi forces began an offensive against IS holdouts in Iraq's vast western Anbar province.

Earlier in the month, Iraqi and US-led coalition planes had stepped up a campaign of airstrikes on Hawija, targeting IS bases and weapons facilities.

IS has been steadily losing ground and seeing its sprawling caliphate, which in 2014 spanned a third of the territory of Iraq and also neighbouring Syria, crumbling fast.

The territory it still holds in the western province lies mainly along the border with Syria in the Euphrates River.

"We should chase this terrorist organisation everywhere," Mr al-Abadi said.

"This is a very dangerous organisation that works for spreading instability."

AP

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