Iraq forces in final push against ISIS

2017-11-25 15:49
(Osama Sami, AP)

(Osama Sami, AP)

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Baghdad - Iraqi forces thrust north from the Euphrates Valley into the desert on Saturday, opening up a new front in the drive to flush out fugitive Islamic State group fighters, says a commander.

ISIS has already been driven from all the towns it once held, but Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said he will not proclaim victory until the jihadists have been cleared from the western desert bordering Syria.

Troops and paramilitaries had advanced into the desert from the east and north on Thursday at the start of an offensive aimed at inflicting a final defeat on the jihadists.

Key role

Troops and tribal militia on Saturday pushed north from Al-Qaim and Rawa, two Euphrates Valley towns recaptured from ISIS earlier this month, in a pincer movement against retreating ISIS fighters, one of the operation's two commanders said.

"It's a matter of linking up with the forces advancing from Nineveh" province in the north, the commander said.

"The aim of the operation is to clear the desert right up to the Syrian border and hunt down the terrorists who fled into the desert from the towns that have been liberated".

The Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) paramilitary force, which has played a key role in the offensive, said 100 villages and hamlets had already been cleared of ISIS fighters.

"The battle for the desert is very important because it's from there that Daesh fighters coming from Syria can attack our defence lines," said Hashed number two Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.


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