The Latest: Iraqi PM welcomes freeing of last IS-held townNovember 17, 2017 11:31am

BAGHDAD (AP) — The Latest on developments in Iraq (all times local):

2:30 p.m.

Iraq's prime minister is congratulating his forces on retaking the last Iraqi town that was held by the Islamic State group.

Haider al-Abadi says in a statement released on Friday afternoon that Iraqi forces liberated Rawah in record time and are continuing operations to retake control of Iraq's western desert and the border area with Syria.

The announcement came just moments after Iraq's Defense Ministry announced that Rawah — located 175 miles (275 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad — had been retaken from IS. The ministry said the assault on the town began at dawn and was complete within hours.

Pockets of rural territory in western Iraq, part of the Syrian town of Boukamal, as well as territory near Damascus and in Hama province are all that remain of the militants' so-called "caliphate" that once stretched from northern Syria to the edges of Baghdad.

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1:10 p.m.

Iraq's Ministry of Defense says Iraqi forces backed by U.S.-led coalition have liberated the last Iraqi town held by Islamic State group.

The ministry said in a statement Friday morning that Iraqi military units and local tribal fighters entered the western neighborhoods of Rawah on the Euphrates River in the western province of Anbar. Officials then announced that forces had taken control of the town.

IS fighters swept across Iraq's north and west in the summer of 2014 capturing Iraq's second largest city of Mosul and advancing to the edges of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. Later that year the U.S. began a campaign of airstrikes against the militants that fueled Iraqi territorial gains, allowing the military to retake Mosul in July of this year.

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11:59 a.m.

Iraq's Defense Ministry says Iraqi forces backed by the U.S.-led coalition have pushed into the last Islamic State group-held town in the country more than three years after the militant group stormed nearly a third of Iraqi territory.

The ministry says in a statement Friday morning Iraqi military units and local tribal fighters entered the western neighborhoods of Rawah on the Euphrates River in the western province of Anbar.

IS fighters swept across Iraq's north and west in the summer of 2014 capturing Iraq's second largest city of Mosul and advancing to the edges of the Iraqi capital Baghdad. Later that year the U.S. began a campaign of airstrikes against the militants that fueled Iraqi territorial gains, allowing the military to retake Mosul in July of this year.

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