The Iraqi military announced on Saturday that it had launched a new stage of its military campaign to hunt down remnants of the ISIS in desert areas of the western province of Anbar.
It is a continuation of the previous three phases of the “Will of Victory” campaign which took place in Anbar, areas north of the capital Baghdad, and remote terrain in Diyala and Nineveh provinces. The operations aimed to eliminate ISIS extremists amid claims of their attempts to regroup across the country.
“The fourth phase of this operation was launched at dawn on Saturday, to search and clear the entire desert areas in Anbar province from remaining gangs of Da’esh [ISIS] terrorists,” the Joint Operations Command said in a statement on Saturday.
Rural areas of Anbar, located near the Syrian border, have proven difficult for Iraqi forces to effectively control. They have long been used by ISIS militants to terrorize local communities and to use as a staging ground from which to launch attacks on nearby towns and cities.
A combination of all local Iraqi security forces, including Hashd al-Shaabi militias known also as IMIS, are participating in the operation, the statement added.
In the previous stage of the campaign, Iraqi forces cleared dozens of villages and an area of over 1,500 square kilometers in Diyala. They also arrested 18 militants from the group and killed four more, the military previously announced.
The fourth phase of the campaign was launched “under the guidance of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces,” Prime Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi, and with aerial support by the Iraqi Air Force and the US-led coalition.
Iraq announced military victory over the ISIS in December 2017, but the group continues to launch insurgent attacks, ambushes, and kidnappings in different parts of the country.