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May 20, 3:38 AM EDT

US says Iraqi forces have retaken southwestern town of Rutba

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BAGHDAD (AP) -- U.S. military officials say Iraqi forces have retaken the southwestern town of Rutba after Islamic State fighters who had occupied the town fled or put up only light resistance.

The top U.S. commander in Baghdad, Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, told reporters Friday that it is an important victory for the Iraqi security forces, even though Rutba is a small town.

MacFarland says that taking Rutba from IS will allow the reopening of the main road from Amman to Baghdad, which he says is an important economic lifeline for Iraqi commerce. IS had been using Rutba as a staging area for weaponry and foreign fighters flowing into Iraq.

Another U.S. officer, Marine Brig. Gen. Bill Mullen, says the decisive action in Rutba was U.S. airstrikes outside the town.

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