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Iraq Since the US-Led Invasion of 2003

US-led forces invaded Saddam Hussein's Iraq in 2003 after claims it was harbouring weapons of mass destruction.

Here is a timeline of major events up until Saturday's declaration by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of victory over the Islamic State group in Iraq: 

- 2003 fall and capture of Saddam -Sirens wail and explosions rock Baghdad around dawn on March 20, signalling the start of the invasion, as announced soon afterwards by US president George W. Bush in a televised address.

Iraqi president Saddam Hussein flees. The international forces' race across the desert of southern Iraq is broadcast around the world. 

By April 9, US forces have taken control of Baghdad, where a large statue of Saddam is symbolically toppled.

Bush announces the end of major combat operations in a speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier, with a banner that reads "Mission Accomplished" behind him.

By October, Washington admits, however, that it has found no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Saddam is captured in December after nine months on the run. He is dragged bearded and dishevelled out of a small underground hideout and hanged three years later.

- 2004-2011, elections and handover -The US-led administration officially hands political power back to Iraq on June 28, 2004.

On January 30, 2005, Iraqis vote in their first multi-party election in half a century, a poll boycotted by Sunni Muslims.

A 2005 constitution enshrines autonomy for Iraqi Kurdistan in the country's north.

On February 22, 2006 Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists blow up one of the country's main Shiite shrines, in Samarra, sparking a wave of sectarian killings.

In July 2006, the United States hands over security control.

International forces start scaling down their presence. US forces complete their withdrawal on December 18, 2011, after nine years in the country.

Between 2003 and 2011, more than 100,000 civilians have been killed, according to Iraq Body Count. The United States has lost nearly 4,500 troops.

- 2013-2014, Islamic State group emerges -Head of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, announces in an online recording in April 2013 the creation of a group straddling Syria called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

In January 2014, Iraq loses its first key town since the US-led invasion as ISIL and its allies capture Fallujah and parts of Ramadi.

ISIL, benefiting from the support of Saddam loyalists, launches a lightning offensive, as weak security forces crumble. 

In June, they seize second city Mosul and Sunni Arab areas bordering the Kurdistan region. Tens of thousands of Christians and Yazidis flee.

In June 2014, the group declares a "caliphate" across the territory it has seized in Iraq and Syria and rebrands itself the Islamic State (IS).

By the end of 2014, the group holds one-third of oil-rich Iraq.

- 2014, the fightback -Following an appeal from the Iraqi government, US warplanes strike IS positions in northern Iraq in August 2014.

In September, an international coalition is formed to battle IS.

In March 2015, Iraq announces the "liberation" of Tikrit, Saddam's hometown, after nearly 10 months under IS rule.

Other towns are retaken: Ramadi in February 2016 and in June, Fallujah.

- 2017, victory in Mosul -A vast offensive to retake Mosul, where Baghdadi made his only public appearance in 2014, is launched in October 2016 involving about 30,000 Iraqi troops, backed by US-led air support.

After a battle that leaves the city in ruins and thousands displaced, victory is declared on July 10. Abadi says it marks the end of the jihadists' "caliphate".

- 2017, push on last IS holdouts- 

In September, Iraq launches a drive to retake IS's last two enclaves in the country, retaking Hawija in October and Al-Qaim, the main town in the group's last bastion along the border with Syria, in November.

On December 9, Abadi declares the "end of the war" against IS and "complete control" of Iraq's border region with Syria. 

- 2017: Kurdistan crisis  -On September 25, 93 percent of voters call for independence in a referendum on independence in Iraqi Kurdistan, organised in defiance of Baghdad. 

In mid-October, Baghdad sends in troops to retake areas outside the autonomous region which the Kurds have controlled since 2003, including Kirkuk.

On October 25, Kurdistan proposes to suspend the results of the referendum, but Baghdad says it should be annulled. On October 29, Kurdish regional president Massud Barzani steps down.

On November 20, the referendum is ruled unconstitutional by Iraq's highest court.

Source: Agence France Presse


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