Two million freed from IS rule in 2016, says Sir Michael Fallon


Two million people were freed from the rule of Islamic State (IS) in the course of 2016 as US-led coalition forces gained ground in Iraq and Syria, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has said.

Sir Michael, who is briefing MPs privately on the progress of operations against IS, said "substantial progress" had been made in driving the group out of Iraq, with Mosul - its last stronghold in the country - expected to fall to Iraqi forces this year.

In Syria, he said the US-backed militias of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were closing around the IS "capital" of Raqqa.

In the course of last year it is estimated almost 25,000 IS fighters have been killed and that the group now controls less than 10% of Iraqi territory.

As IS - also referred to as Daesh - has become increasingly disorganised, officials said its fighters were resorting to ever more desperate tactics, including hiding in hospitals and burning alive people who they caught trying to flee.

The RAF is continuing to carry out operations in support of ground forces on both fronts. In 2016 the Ministry of Defence said British warplanes and drones conducted almost 1,200 strikes in the most intense and sustained pace of operations since the Gulf War 25 years earlier.

Sir Michael said: "In the last year, over two million people have been freed from Daesh rule by Iraqi and moderate Syrian Democratic Forces, backed by coalition air power.

"Britain is stepping up in the fight against Daesh: the Army has helped train over 32,000 Iraqi forces and in a controlled and precise manner the RAF are taking out Daesh and working hard to minimise casualties in a very difficult dense urban environment.

"Working with allies we will keep momentum, push Daesh out of Mosul, encircle Raqqa and eventually end Daesh's reign of terror."