A senior Iraqi commander declared that the city of Fallujah was "fully liberated" from Islamic State militants on Sunday, after a more than monthlong military operation. Iraqi troops have entered the northwestern al-Julan neighborhood, the last area of Fallujah to remain under ISIS control, the head of the counterterrorism forces, Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi, told the AP. Al-Saadi said the operation, which began in late May, "is done and the city is fully liberated." The Iraqi army was backed by US-led coalition airstrikes and paramilitary troops, mostly Shiite militias. "From the center of al-Julan neighborhood, we congratulate the Iraqi people and the commander in chief...and declare that the Fallujah fight is over," he told Iraqi state TV, flanked by military officers and soldiers. Some soldiers were shooting in the air, chanting and waving the Iraqi flag.
He added that troops will start working on removing bombs from streets and buildings. The announcement comes more than a week after Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi declared victory in Fallujah after Iraqi forces advanced into the city center and took control of a government complex. While al-Abadi pledged the remaining pockets of ISIS fighters would be cleared out within hours, fierce clashes on the city's northern and western edges persisted for days. The operation has fueled an exodus of thousands, overwhelming camps for the displaced. According to the UN Refugee Agency, more than 85,000 have fled Fallujah and the surrounding area since the offensive began. Like other aid agencies, the UNHCR warned of dire conditions in the camps, where temperatures are well over 100 degrees and shelter is limited, calling for more funds to meet mounting needs. Fallujah has been under ISIS control since January 2014. (Read more Fallujah stories.)