Iraq since the U.S.-Led Invasion

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

Here is a timeline of major events in the country since then:

- 2003 fall and capture of Saddam -

Sirens wail and explosions rock Baghdad around dawn on March 20, signaling the start of the invasion, as announced soon afterwards by U.S. 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, U.S. 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 disheveled out of a small underground hideout and hanged three years later.

- 2004-2011, elections and handover -

The U.S.-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-Qaida-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. U.S. 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, the Islamic State emerges -

Head of al-Qaida 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 U.S.-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, U.S. warplanes strike IS positions in northern Iraq in August 2014, in Washington's first direct military engagement in the country since its troop withdrawal.

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 U.S.-led air support.

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

By September 21, Iraq brings all of its territory still held by IS jihadists under attack with offensives in the remaining holdouts.

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