Iraq holds military parade to celebrate victory over ISIS

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraq's armed forces held a military parade in Baghdad on Sunday, December 10, to celebrate the victory announced by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi over the Islamic State (ISIS) group.

Abadi on Saturday, December 9, declared victory in Iraq's 3-year war to expel the jihadist group that at its height endangered the country's very existence.

Iraqi army units marched through the main square in central Baghdad as helicopters and fighter jets flew overhead, witnesses said.

The parade was not broadcast live and only state media were allowed to attend.

Abadi had declared Sunday a public holiday after making his announcement, in which he said Iraq had defeated the jihadists "through our unity and our determination."

Iraqis took to the streets to celebrate, including in second city Mosul and the capital Baghdad, singing patriotic songs, waving the national flag, and shouting "Iraq, Iraq!"

The Sunni extremists of ISIS seized control of large parts of Iraq and neighboring Syria in 2014, declaring a cross-border "caliphate" and committing widespread atrocities.

Backed by a US-led coalition, Iraqi forces gradually retook control of all territory lost to the jihadists over the past 3 years.

The head of the coalition on Sunday congratulated the Baghdad government for defeating ISIS, but warned that more work needed to be done to ensure the jihadists 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 Daesh (ISIS) and prevent its ability to threaten civilization, regionally and globally," Lieutenant General Paul E. Funk II said in a statement.

On Saturday, the US State Department had also hailed the end of the jihadists' "vile occupation," but cautioned that "the fight against terrorism" is not over.

Experts warn that ISIS remains a threat, with the capacity as an insurgent group to carry out high-casualty bomb attacks using sleeper cells.

Saudi Arabia also congratulated Iraq on Sunday, with a foreign ministry official calling the jihadists' defeat "a grand victory on terrorism in the region," the official Saudi Press Agency reported. –