Baghdad (IraqiNews.com) Iraq’s military commanders said Wednesday they were nearing a military offensive targeting the Islamic State’s last havens in Iraq in western Anbar.
The Defense Ministry’s War Media Cell published a map marking the western Anbar towns of Qaim and Rawa with black, compared to the rest of country regions, denoting that they remain under Islamic State control.
“Bear with us. Soon, God willing, we will remove the black stain,” read a line on the map.
Meanwhile, Qassem al-Mohammadi, head of the army’s al-Jazeera Operations, told Mawazin news website that joint troops have intensified their deployment in western Anbar desert as part of preparation for the offensive.
Mohammadi said his troops will “advance from various axes to expel Islamic State from regions adjacent to the Syrian borders”. He added that militants’ numbers in the two towns is estimated by 2000.
Since Islamic State militants took over large areas of Iraq and Syria to establish a self-styled “caliphate” in 2014, Iraqi government forces, backed paramilitary troops and U.S.-led coalition, launched a wide-scale campaign to retake those regions.
So far, the offensives managed to retake Mosul, the group’s former capital, the town of Tal Afar, Kirkuk’s Hawija and Anbar’s Annah.
Local authorities and human rights agencies believe Islamic State members are holding tens of thousands of civilians in western Anbar as future human shields, having killed hundreds for attempting to escape.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a weekly press briefing on Tuesday that 2017 would witness the end of Islamic State’s existence in Iraq.