Middle East

Islamic State hit by double blow

Islamic State has suffered a double blow as the city of Ramadi falls to Iraqi forces, and 10 of the militant group's leaders are killed in air strikes.

US-led forces have killed 10 Islamic State leaders in air strikes, including individuals linked to the Paris attacks, a US spokesman says.

The air strikes are part of a double blow dealt to the militant group, after Iraqi forces ousted it from the city of Ramadi.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi planted the national flag in Ramadi after the army retook the city centre from IS.

"Over the past month, we've killed 10 ISIL leadership figures with targeted air strikes, including several external attack planners, some of whom are linked to the Paris attacks," said US Army Colonel Steve Warren, a spokesman for the US-led campaign against the Islamist group also known by the acronym ISIL.

One of those killed was Abdul Qader Hakim, who facilitated the militants' external operations, Warren said. He was killed in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on December 26.

Two days earlier, a coalition air strike in Syria killed Charaffe al Mouadan, a Syria-based IS member with a direct link to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected ringleader of the coordinated bombings and shootings in Paris on November 13 which killed 130 people, Warren said.

Air strikes on IS's leadership helped explain recent battlefield successes against the group, which also lost control of a dam on a strategic supply route near its de facto capital of Raqqa in Syria on Saturday.

"Part of those successes is attributable to the fact that the organisation is losing its leadership," Warren said.

He warned, however: "It's still got fangs."

The Iraqi army's seizure of the centre of Ramadi on Sunday is its first major victory against the hardline Sunni Islamists that swept through a third of Iraq in 2014, and came after months of cautious advances backed by coalition air strikes.

Ramadi was the only city to have fallen under IS control since Abadi took office in September 2014.

The retaking of Ramadi suggested Abadi's strategy of heavy US air support while sidelining the Shi'ite militias could be effective. The militias have served as a bulwark against IS but drawn objections from Washington.

Coalition spokesman Warren said casualties to Iraqi forces during the battle for Ramadi were in the low double digits. He and Iraqi officials put IS casualties in the hundreds.

The government has designated the mostly Sunni city of Mosul, 400km north of Baghdad, as the next target for Iraq's armed forces.