Cities and towns retaken from IS group in Iraq and Syria

AFP , Sunday 26 Jun 2016

Iraqi commanders announced the complete recapture of key Islamic State group stronghold Fallujah on Sunday after declaring victory in the city a week earlier.

Here is a recap of key cities and towns retaken from IS group in Iraq and neighbouring Syria:

Fallujah: Anbar province's second city and one of IS's most emblematic bastions in the country, located just 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Baghdad. It was seized by anti-government fighters in 2014 and later became a key IS group stronghold.

While the battle has been won, Iraq still faces a major humanitarian crisis in its aftermath, with tens of thousands of people who fled the fighting desperately in need of assistance in the searing summer heat.

Ramadi: The capital of Anbar, the country's largest province that stretches from the borders with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia to just west of the capital.

IS group seized Ramadi, located 100 kilometres (60 miles) west of Baghdad, in May 2015 in an assault involving dozens of suicide bombers driving explosives-rigged vehicles. Iraqi forces launched an operation to retake the city late last year and declared full control over the area earlier this year.

Tikrit: Hometown of late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein located 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of Baghdad, it was the second city after Mosul to fall to IS group. It was recaptured in April 2015 by Iraqi troops, police and Shia-dominated paramilitaries. The operation, which was at that time the largest by Iraqi forces against IS group, was helped by the fact that much of Tikrit's civilian population had fled the city.

Sinjar: Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by US-led coalition air strikes recaptured Sinjar, 400 kilometres (250 miles) northwest of Baghdad, from IS group last November. That cut a key supply line linking areas held by the militants in Iraq and Syria. IS group captured Sinjar in August 2014 and carried out a brutal campaign against its Yazidi minority that included massacres, enslavement and rape.

Baiji: Iraqi forces recaptured the town of Baiji, 200 kilometres (120 miles) north of Baghdad in October 2015.

Baiji and the country's largest refinery, located nearby, were the scenes of some of the longest-running battles with IS group in Iraq. The town lies at a major crossroads and its recapture was seen as key to preparing the ground for offensives in Anbar and Mosul, the last major Iraqi city held by IS group.

Palmyra: Known as the "Pearl of the Desert", Palmyra was overrun by IS group in May 2015, after which the militants blew up UNESCO-listed temples and looted ancient relics.

Syrian regime forces backed by Russian warplanes and allied militia retook the ancient city from IS group in March this year.

Kobane: A Kurdish town in northern Syria on the Turkish border. It became a symbol of the fight against IS group, and the militants were driven out of Kobane in January 2015 after more than four months of fierce fighting with Kurdish forces backed by US-led strikes.

The city, known in Arabic as Ain al-Arab, is the capital of one of three semi-autonomous "cantons" established by Kurds after the Syrian war erupted.

Tal Abyad: Another city on the Turkish border, it was captured by Kurds in June 2015. Tal Abyad lies on a key supply route between Turkey and IS group stronghold Raqa, and militants fighters and arms regularly passed through the city before its recapture.

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