BAGHDAD: Iraqi federal forces, Sunni tribes and Shiite militias retook most of Dhuluiyah town from the Islamic State group Friday, in one of the most significant victories over the jihadists.
A Sunni tribe in the south of the town, 90 kilometres (55 miles) north of the capital, had been holding out against relentless attacks for nearly four months.
Iraq’s military announced that all jihadists had left the town.
But some fighters on the ground were more cautious, saying there was one area pro-government forces had yet to enter.
“Dhuluiyah has been completely cleared of IS,” Lieutenant General Mohammed al-Askari, the defence ministry spokesman, told AFP.
“The Iraqi army, as well as volunteers from the tribes and popular brigades (Shiite militias), entered Dhuluiyah and have now reached the office of the mayor,” he said.
The Jubur tribe in the south of the town has been holding out since June against relentless attacks by the jihadists.
A victory against IS there has been described as crucial to efforts by the government to show it was willing to support Sunni tribes rejecting IS.
“The army arrived from the north,” said Abu Haitham al-Juburi, a fighter from the southern Jubur neighbourhood.
He said the operation was coordinated with other Sunni tribes and explained that pro-government forces had left an escape route open for the jihadists in order to avoid more bloodshed.
“The officer in charge decided not to attack… tonight in order to minimise casualties. We will go there tomorrow,” he said.
“The fighting was really intense today especially from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm (1200 GMT),” said Mustafa Nadhom, another fighter, speaking by phone from the frontline.
“Today we killed 25 members of IS. Most of them were Arab foreign fighters, including two with British citizenship and two Yemenis,” he said.
“Now there are small clashes but it’s mostly quiet. We will make the final push tomorrow.”