Baghdad (ANTARA News) - Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Saturday officially declared full liberation of Iraq from the Islamic State (IS) militants after Iraqi forces recaptured all the areas once seized by the extremist group.
"I announce to the Iraqi people and all the world that our forces have reached the last redoubts of Daesh (IS) and have raised the Iraqi flag over areas of western Anbar (province) which was the last occupied land by IS," Abadi said in a televised speech.
"The Iraqi flag is rising today over the farthest border point," he added.
Abadi also congratulated the Iraqi forces and the people of Iraq on the overdue victory over IS.
"Such great victory deserves to be celebrated today and every year. It is a victory and a feat to all Iraqis," said Abadi, whose office later announced Dec. 9 as a holiday across Iraq.
The Iraqi prime minister called on Iraqis to unite as "it is the weapon that enabled us to overcome (IS)."
"We must adhere to this unity and strengthen it with all possible means," he said, adding that Iraq "today is for all Iraqis and its wealth belongs to all."
He also called on Iraqi politicians to shoulder their responsibilities in maintaining security and stability and preventing the return of terrorism again.
"I appeal them all to refrain from returning to provocative and sectarian discourse, which was a major cause of human tragedies that enable the extremist organization to occupy Iraqi cities, sabotage them and displace millions of Iraqis," Abadi said.
In addition, Abadi pressed for anti-corruption, saying the battle against corruption will be "extension to the operations that liberated the land of Iraq."
"There will be no place for corrupters in Iraq, like there is no place left for Daesh. This is another battle for everyone to take part in seriously," Abadi said.
He warned Iraqis to "remain alert and ready to confront any terrorist attempt that may target our people and our land," despite the announcement of victory over IS.
Earlier in the day, Lt. Gen. Abdul Amir Rasheed Yarallah, commander of western Iraq operations, announced the liberation of all Iraqi lands from IS militants after seizing the whole border areas and desert in western Iraq.
"The liberation of all Iraqi lands from the IS has been completed and our heroic forces have tightened their grab on the Iraqi-Syrian border," Yarallah said.
The army forces and the paramilitary Hashd Shaabi brigades, backed by Iraqi helicopter gunships, managed to take control of the whole desert areas between the provinces of Nineveh and Anbar, he said.
Meanwhile, observers warned that Abadis declaration does not mean the terrorist group has no ability to carry out attacks as it is still able to attack through its sleeper cells in the country.
On Nov. 17, the Iraqi forces ended the first phase of the offensive when they drove out IS militants from their last urban stronghold in Iraq and raised the Iraqi flag over the buildings of the city of Rawa and nearby border areas in north of the Euphrates River.
The IS militants seized large swathes of territory in Iraq in 2014, when government forces abandoned their weapons and fled, enabling IS militants to take control of parts of Iraqs northern and western regions.
Source: ANTARA News