By Suleiman al-Qubaisi and Ali Jawad
The Iraqi army on Saturday began fresh operations aimed at restoring areas of the western Anbar province still held by the Daesh terrorist group, according to local military officials.
“Iraqi forces, Hashd al-Shaabi fighters and Border Guard units have launched a wide-ranging campaign to liberate Anbar’s Okashat district and reopen the highway linking it to Iraq’s northern border,” Lieutenant-General Abdul-Amir Yarallah, deputy commander of the army’s Joint Operations Command, said.
The Hashd al-Shaabi is a largely Shia fighting force that was incorporated into the Iraqi army last year.
The latest phase in Iraq’s years-long war against Daesh, the new army campaign comes amid a series of mop-up operations aimed at eliminating the terrorist presence in western Anbar near Iraq’s borders with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
On Friday evening, Iraqi warplanes dropped thousands of leaflets over Anbar’s western Okashat, Anah, Rawa and Al-Qaim districts urging local residents to take cover and calling on Daesh to surrender.
Meanwhile, the army has continued to deploy troops to the Al-Shirqat and Hawija districts -- respectively located in the northern Saladin and Kirkuk provinces -- with the aim of extirpating the Daesh presence in northern Iraq.
Daesh overran wide swathes of territory in northern and western Iraq in mid-2014.
This summer, the Iraqi army -- with U.S. coalition air support -- recaptured the northern city of Mosul, the terrorist group’s self-proclaimed “caliphate”, following a nine-month campaign.