Iraqi warplanes strike ISIS targets in Syria
The Iraqi air force on Thursday (April 19th) carried out a "deadly raid" against positions of the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) in neighbouring Syria near the border with Iraq, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's office said.
The strike against ISIS was conducted on al-Abadi's order "because of the danger they pose to Iraqi territory", a statement said.
A video released by the air force showed two F-16 fighter jets in action.
"These raids demonstrate the growing capacity of our armed forces to hunt down and liquidate terrorists," the statement added.
"Through their pursuit of terrorist gangs, our heroic forces and fighters have saved many lives and have thwarted ISIS's plans by dismantling the group's terrorist death machine," the statement said.
"These strikes will help to expedite the elimination of ISIS gangs in the region after we destroyed them in Iraq," it added.
The Iraqi strike in Syria came a day after al-Abadi told a gathering of tribesmen in Diwaniyah province that "we will not stop chasing ISIS not only in Iraq, but in the region".
"The mission is not easy, but we shall make another miracle after that of the grand victory," he said at the Wednesday gathering.
In December, Iraq declared victory against ISIS, which launched a sweeping offensive in 2014 and at its peak controlled one-third of the country. But the extremists still control pockets of desert along the border with Syria.
Fortifying Iraq's border with Syria
Iraq has been working to fortify its border against ISIS infiltrations from Syria, especially along the section of the border that stretches 600 kilometres from north-west Ninawa to western al-Rutba, officials told Diyaruna.
Iraqi forces have dug a trench on the Iraq side of the border that runs from the Anbar city of Rawa to the border with Syria and down to al-Qaim, they said.
Forces from Al-Jazeera Operations Command and the Iraqi army's 7th and 8th Divisions have "overseen the engineering work for digging the trench", al-Qaim mayor Ahmed al-Dulaimi told Diyaruna.
"A sand barrier also has been built in conjunction with the trench," he said.
The trench is important to "block the infiltration of terrorist elements and obstruct the passage of their vehicles", al-Dulaimi said, adding that it also will "put a stop to the smuggling of arms and car bombs through the borders".
"The trench in western Anbar stretches along the most dangerous and important part of the Iraqi-Syrian border," said tribal leader Sheikh Qatari al-Samarmad.
Infiltration threats extend to areas beyond the trench in Ninawa that are outside the control of the security and tribal forces in Anbar, he told Diyaruna.
'All available means' to prevent threat
The border with Syria is a source of concern for Iraqi authorities, as the situation in that country continues to be unstable and ISIS still has a presence there, al-Samarmad said.
"We must take all necessary precautions to contain any possible threats," he said.
Anbar provincial council member Karim al-Karbouli told Diyaruna that digging the trench is indicative of the "government’s determination to use all available means to ward off any threats coming from the Syrian border".
Al-Abadi has, on several occasions, underscored the importance of tightening security along that stretch of the Iraqi border.
During an April 10th press conference, he said the government would "take all the necessary measures" to protect Iraq's border with Syria and prevent any possible cross-border ISIS attacks.
"We are highly confident in the capability of our forces to secure the borders and prevent terrorists from infiltrating and destabilising our cities," al-Karbouli said.