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Iraq marks national holiday with military parade

AP , Thursday 14 Jul 2016
Iraq National day
Iraqi security forces parade in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, July 14, 2016 (Photo: AP)
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Iraq on Thursday marked the anniversary of the 1958 overthrow of the monarchy and recent victories over the extremist Islamic State group with a military parade staged in central Baghdad amid tight security.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, standing alone on a reviewing stand, saluted the parade as fighter-jets, including U.S.-made F-16s, screamed over the city. Transport aircraft and helicopters also staged fly-overs.

Hundreds of troops and policemen locked down the central Baghdad area for the parade, which featured artillery, tanks and rocket launchers. Clad in black fatigues and matching ski masks, members of the elite counterterrorism force took part in the parade, as well as Iraqi special forces.

Members of the paramilitary Popular Mobilization Forces, an array of Shiite militias set up in the wake of the IS blitz across much of northern and western Iraq in 2014, also took part in the parade.

The celebration came on the heels of last month's retaking of the city of Fallujah from IS and ahead of an expected assault on Mosul, the last major Iraqi city still under IS control.

Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi boasted to reporters that weapons shown at the parade were only a "small part" of the military's arsenal.

"We will surprise Daesh with new weapons" in the battle for Mosul, he vowed, using the Arabic acronym for the Sunni militant group.

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