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Iraqi PM formally declares victory

Iraqi Prime Minister Media Office/Reuters

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, center, holds an Iraqi flag as he announces victory over the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant militant group in Mosul, Iraq, on Monday.

Reuters MOSUL/ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) — Iraq’s prime minister declared victory over the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group in Mosul on Monday, three years after the militants seized the city and made it the stronghold of a “caliphate” they said would take over the world.

“I announce from here the end and the failure and the collapse of the terrorist state of falsehood and terrorism which the terrorist Daesh announced from Mosul,” Haider al-Abadi said in a speech shown on state television, using an Arabic acronym for ISIL.

A 100,000-strong alliance of Iraqi government units, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shiite militias launched the offensive to recapture the northern city from the militants in October, with air and ground support from a U.S.-led coalition.

Abadi, wearing a black military uniform and flanked by commanders from the security forces, thanked troops and the coalition. But he warned that more challenges lay ahead. “We have another mission ahead of us, to create stability, to build and clear Daesh cells, and that requires an intelligence and security effort, and the unity which enabled us to fight Daesh,” he said before raising an Iraqi flag.

Iraq declared a week-long holiday to mark the victory. People celebrated in the streets of the capital Baghdad and southern cities.

The coalition said in a statement Iraqi forces were in “firm control” of Mosul, but some areas still needed to be cleared of explosive devices and possible ISIL fighters in hiding.

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