Iraqi PM welcomes freeing of last IS-held town

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s prime minister is congratulating his forces on retaking the last Iraqi town that was held by the Islamic State group.

Haider al-Abadi says in a statement released on Friday afternoon that Iraqi forces liberated Rawah in record time and are continuing operations to retake control of Iraq’s western desert and the border area with Syria.

The announcement came just moments after Iraq’s Defense Ministry announced that Rawah — located 175 miles (275 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad — had been retaken from IS. The ministry said the assault on the town began at dawn and was complete within hours.

Pockets of rural territory in western Iraq, part of the Syrian town of Boukamal, as well as territory near Damascus and in Hama province are all that remain of the militants’ so-called “caliphate” that once stretched from northern Syria to the edges of Baghdad.