Iraq offensive near Syria border

BAGHDAD: Iraqi forces launched an offensive against the IS group near the Syrian border on Thursday, piling further pressure on the militants’ crumbling “caliphate”.
Baghdad and its allies also turned up the heat on IS in its last remaining Iraqi stronghold of Mosul, where the US-led coalition said it had doubled the number of its advisors.
“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 militants, 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 militant hub of Al Qaim, which lies 330 kilometres 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 said.
Haditha was never seized by IS when the group swept across Iraq in 2014 and is home to a tribe that has led the fight against the militants in the area.
“Zero hour has come to liberate the western areas,” Nadhom al Jughaifi, a commander with the Haditha tribal fighters, said. — AFP

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