Nov. 17 (UPI) -- The Iraqi army said Friday it's retaken the town of Rawa, the last Islamic State stronghold in the country.
Rawa, located just 70 miles from the Syrian border, was surrounded by Iraqi forces for several weeks as they conquered the nearby towns of Qaim and Ana. With support from local militias and airstrikes by a U.S.-led coalition, forces entered Rawa Friday to little resistance, Iraqi commanders said.
Friday afternoon the Iraqi army announced it had "liberated Rawa completely."
Iraqi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yehya Rasool said remaining IS forces in Rawa were chased into the nearby Anbar Desert, and that additional airstrikes would defeat last pockets of resistance.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi sent congratulations without acknowledging that the group had been vanquished.
The Islamic State, which controlled one-third of Iraqi territory three years ago, is now reduced to a small part of Syria as its primary domain. It used to have Mosul, Fallujah and Tikrit as Iraqi strongholds.
Officials said the insurgent group no longer holds territory in Iraq and is losing ground in Syria.
Experts say capturing the three towns on the Euphrates River is a strategic win for the Iraqi army. Controlling the area seals off Syria to the west and ends the IS capability of moving troops, vehicles and supplies between Iraq and Syria.