Iraqi Army troops in Anbar province. AP file photo
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - The Iraqi army has launched a widespread operation in Anbar’s deserts towards the Saudi borders, aiming to clear the area of remaining ISIS elements, despite the declaration of the end of ISIS war in Iraq in early December.
Mahmood Falahi, the commander of the Anbar Operations Command, announced that the operation started on Saturday to clear Anbar’s deserts and remote areas all the way to Saudi Arabia’s borders.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over ISIS in December, though Iraqi forces continue to combat cells of the group in pockets mainly in Anbar province and along with the Kurdish Peshmerga near the Hamrin mountain area that is close to northern Saladin province.
The US-led anti-ISIS coalition has stated that their focus remains assisting Iraq to combat ISIS and also to build up internal and border security to ensure the terror organization cannot regroup.
Eight Iraqis were killed in an apparent case of friendly fire in western Anbar province. The majority of the dead are members of Iraqi security forces.
Iraq’s Joint Operations Command stated that their forces were conducting an operation based on “accurate intelligence about the presence of a terrorist leader, Karim Afat Ali al-Samirmd, in one of houses in al-Baghdadi district to meet with a terrorist cell.”
Kurdish officials have repeatedly warned of an ISIS presence that grew after many fighters fled during the fight for Mosul in 2017.
Abadi declared victory over ISIS in early December.