Government forces wrested back the final piece of the Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Iraq, the country’s military said Friday, reclaiming the small town of Rawah near the border with Syria.
The Islamic State extremist group, which at its peak in 2014 held about a third of Iraq, including large cities such as Mosul, Tikrit and Fallujah, is now scattered and severely diminished. With the loss of Rawah, the militants no longer can claim to hold territory in Iraq and are quickly ceding ground in Syria, as well.
Still, Iraqi officials warn, the Islamic State poses a threat as it turns to more-traditional terrorist tactics. Since losing its de facto capital of Mosul in July, the group has been able to stage deadly suicide bombings, and its gunmen have struck civilians throughout Iraq.
Rawah is a small and sparsely populated town about 68 miles east of the Syrian border. It was surrounded by Iraqi forces for several weeks as they worked to clear the nearby towns of Qaim and Ana. Iraqi troops, backed by militia fighters and U.S. airstrikes, entered Rawah early Friday and encountered little resistance, commanders said.