Iraqi forces push Islamic State out of western Iraqi town



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BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi forces pushed Islamic State fighters out of a pocket of territory near the key western city of Ramadi on Friday evening, the military said, following a string of recent victories against the Sunni militant group in the sprawling western Anbar desert.

Iraqi forces are now largely moving north, ahead of an eventual push on the country's second-largest city of Mosul, which has been under Islamic State group's control for the past two years. Mosul is also the IS's last remaining urban bastion in Iraq.

The development came as a powerful Iraqi Shiite cleric in Baghdad expressed discontent with the country's new ministers appointed this week, after months of political wrangling — a reflection of the still simmering political crisis.

The town retaken Friday from IS — Khaldiyah, 55 miles (90 kilometers) west of Baghdad — lies between Ramadi and Fallujah, the two key cities in Anbar province retaken from IS by Iraqi security forces over the last year.

The Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, issued a statement in which he repeated calls a complete government overhaul and trials for all corrupt politicians. He also accused Iraq's political blocs of standing in the way of reforms that the prime minister pledged to pursue more than a year ago.

Iraq's parliament approved a partial Cabinet reshuffle this week, endorsing five new ministers.

Over the past year Iraq's government has come under mounting public pressure. Anti-government protesters stormed Baghdad's highly fortified Green Zone once in April and a second time in May.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Qassim Abdul-Zahra

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