Iraqis celebrate victory over ISIS
By Khalid al-Taie
Iraqis on Sunday (December 10th) celebrated the victory announced by Prime Minister Haider al-Abbadi over the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) until the late hours of the night.
Al-Abbadi on Saturday announced in a televised address victory in a 3-year war against ISIS and the restoration of control over the country’s entire territory.
"Our forces are in full control of the Iraqi-Syrian border and I therefore announce the end of the war against ISIS," the prime minister said.
"Our enemy wanted to kill our civilisation, but we have won through our unity and our determination," he said, declaring Sunday a public holiday.
The head of Iraq's Joint Operations Command Lt. Gen. Abdul Ameer Rashid Yarallah, had announced Saturday that the desert valley of al-Jazeera was under the control of Iraqi troops all the way from Ninawa province in the north to Anbar in the west, AFP reported.
Federal forces "now control the border with Syria from al-Waleed border crossing to that of Rabia", covering a distance of 435 kilometres, he said.
Iraq's armed forces held a military parade in Baghdad on Sunday to celebrate the victory. The parade was not broadcast live and only state media were allowed to attend.
Hundreds of citizens gathered despite the cold weather in Baghdad's Tahrir Square and in several other public squares, raising Iraqi flags and banners hailing the military achievement.
"We have been waiting for this historic day for a long time. Our troops have turned the dream into a reality," citizen Omar al-Salami told Diyaruna.
"We have sacrificed precious lives and must now preserve this victory," he added.
"We have liberated our country and ISIS has gone into the dustbin of history," said Khudair Abbas, who was wearing a scarf in the colours of the Iraqi flag.
The streets of the capital were filled with revellers and fireworks lit up the night sky. Citizens danced to music played by musicians walking up and down the al-Karrada Dakhil commercial street.
"We are ecstatic with joy. It is a holiday for the whole of Iraq," Louay Hassoun, who was carrying a banner reading "Victory is on the hero's side", told Diyaruna.
Citizen Faten Abdul Wahid said "the time of rebuilding and work has come".
Challenges remain despite victory
"Other challenges await us, first and foremost corruption," citizen Ali Mazen al-Obeidi said. "But we will eliminate it as we have terrorism."
"[Victory] has cost us dearly, but we ultimately crushed terrorism," Iraqi Defence Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Tahseen al-Khafaji told Diyaruna.
"It is a day for heroism, self-sacrifice and history," he said. "Our men from all participating forces have kept the country’s unity, safeguarded its people and liberated its cities."
"After this achievement, we still have more work to do," al-Khafaji said. "We have to clean our country of the terrorists’ remnants, fight their sleeping cells and strengthen co-operation with the population."
He urged Iraqis to "combat extremist terrorist ideology, eradicate its roots and rebuild devastated cities".
"We have proved by this victory that we are a people of iron will and determination," Iraqi MP Ali al-Allaq told Diyaruna. "We stood against a vicious enemy with strong fighting spirit."
"Our forces now have a long experience in fighting terrorists, and other countries could benefit from it," he added.
This victory has united the people and all political blocs, al-Allaq said, calling on everyone to "protect this historic achievement" and for it "to serve as an incentive to rebuild and to consolidate stability".
UN envoy Jan Kubis urged the Iraqi people to build "a better future and common destiny for all in their united country with the same patriotism and determination that marked their nation's war against terrorism".
Saudi Arabia also congratulated Iraq on Sunday, with a foreign ministry official calling ISIS's defeat "a grand victory on terrorism in the region", the official Saudi Press Agency reported.
The head of the international coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria on Sunday congratulated the Iraqi government for defeating ISIS, but warned that more work needed to be done to ensure the extremists do not strike again.
"Much work remains, and we will continue to work by, with and through our Iraqi partners to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS and prevent its ability to threaten civilisation, regionally and globally," Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II said in a statement.