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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 November 2018

Iraq's Abadi: ISIL defeated 'from a military perspective'

But the prime minister says he will only declare final victory once security forces have eliminated the extremists from desert areas

Iraqi prime minister Haider Al Abadi is pictured during a press conference following his meeting with French president Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee palace in Paris on October 5, 2017. Ludovic Marin / AFP
Iraqi prime minister Haider Al Abadi is pictured during a press conference following his meeting with French president Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee palace in Paris on October 5, 2017. Ludovic Marin / AFP

Iraq's prime minister has announced the defeat of ISIL "from a military perspective" but says he will only declare final victory once security forces have eliminated the extremists from the desert.

Rawa, the last remaining town under ISIL's control, was captured by Iraqi forces on Friday, signalling the collapse of the group in Iraq after it overran much of the country in 2014.

“From a military perspective, we have ended the presence of Daesh in Iraq,” Mr Al Abadi said while addressing a weekly news conference. “God willing we will announce very soon after the end of the purification operations victory over Daesh in Iraq.”

Mr Al Abadi said the final battle against ISIL would take place in the desert of western Anbar, after which he would announce victory against the group.

Referring to Baghdad's ongoing row with Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, Mr Al Abadi said political disagreements in the country "will pave the way for ISIL fights to carry out attacks".

“I call on our Kurdish brothers to avoid fighting," he said.

It comes after Iraq's Kurds voted overwhelmingly to secede in an independence referendum on September 25, defying Baghdad and neighbouring Turkey and Iran who have their own Kurdish minorities. Outraged by the results, Baghdad deemed the vote “illegal” and demanded the Kurds annul the results before any negotiations take place between the two sides.

The vote was met by harsh economic measures imposed by the central government in Baghdad. International flights in and out of the Kurdish region were halted and the Iraqi government later launched a military operation to recapture the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and other areas that lie outside of the Kurdish region's borders but are claimed by both Baghdad and Erbil.

On Monday, Iraq’s supreme federal court ruled that the referendum was unconstitutional and the results void, bolstering Baghdad’s hand in a stand-off with the Kurdish region that is being watched closely by neighbouring Turkey and Iran.

"I hail the federal court’s decision to void the Kurdish region’s referendum," Mr Al Abadi said in Tuesday's news conference.

Hours before Mr Al Abadi made his remarks, at least 23 people were killed and 60 wounded when a suicide bomber detonated a lorry near a crowded marketplace in the northern Iraqi town of Tuz Khurmatu, south of the oil city of Kirkuk.