Iraqi forces launched an offensive against the IS group near the Syrian border Thursday, piling further pressure on the jihadists’ crumbling “caliphate”.
“A military operation has begun in the western areas of Anbar (province) to liberate them from Daesh,” said Lieutenant General Qassem Mohammedi, head of Jazeera Operations Command, using an Arabic acronym for IS.
He said the operation was led by the army’s 7th division, police, and fighters from local tribes that have opposed the jihadists, with aerial backing from the coalition.
The main targets of the operation are Aanah, Rawa and Al-Qaim, the westernmost Iraqi towns along the Euphrates Valley.
The terorrists hub of Al-Qaim, which lies 330 kilometres (200 miles) northwest of Baghdad, is still a long way down the road and the most immediate target is the town of Aanah.
“Our forces started advancing from Haditha towards Aanah from several directions,” Mohammedi told AFP.
“Zero hour has come to liberate the western areas,” Nadhom al-Jughaifi, a commander with the Haditha tribal fighters, said.
In 2016, Iraqi forces retook large parts of the vast province of Anbar, including its capital Ramadi and the city of Fallujah.
Anbar is a desert area traversed by the Euphrates that borders Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria. Security in reconquered areas remains precarious and terorrists continue to move across the province.