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Iraqi forces kick ISIS's ASS in Ramadi and take back the city

Iraqi forces kick ISIS's ASS in Ramadi and take back the city

By Stephen Kalin and Saif Hameed for Reuters

Iraq flew its flag above the main government complex in the western city of Ramadi on Monday, marking its military's first major victory over Islamic State since the army collapsed in the face of the fighters' shock advance 18 months ago.

Footage aired on state television showed a handful of soldiers approach a low-rise building and then emerge on its roof to hoist a small tri-color banner above their heads.

"Yes, the city of Ramadi has been liberated. The Iraqi counter terrorism forces have raised the Iraqi flag over the government complex," joint operations spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Rasool said in an earlier televised statement.

If the government retains control of Ramadi, which was seized by Islamic State fighters in May, it would become the first city recaptured by Iraq's U.S.-trained army since it fled from the hardline militants in June 2014. In previous battles since then, the Iraqi armed forces operated mainly in a supporting role beside Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias.

Soldiers were shown on state television on Monday publicly slaughtering a sheep in an act of celebration.

Gunshots and an explosion could be heard as a state TV reporter interviewed other soldiers celebrating the victory with their automatic weapons held in the air. A separate plume of smoke could be seen nearby.

U.S. Army Colonel Steve Warren, a spokesman for a U.S.-led coalition backing Iraqi forces, said in a statement: "The clearance of the government center is a significant accomplishment and is the result of many months of hard work."

He said the coalition had provided more than 630 airstrikes in the area over the past six months as well as training, advice and equipment to the army, counter-terrorism forces and police.

The U.S.-led coalition, which includes major European and Arab powers, has been waging an air campaign against Islamic State positions in both Iraq and Syria since mid-2014, after the fighters swiftly seized a third of Iraq's territory.

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