Iraq News

Iraqi forces remove ISIL from Haditha island

By Khalid al-Taie

Iraqi forces prepare to launch strikes against the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant'. [Photo courtesy of the Iraqi Ministry of Defence]

Iraqi forces prepare to launch strikes against the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant'. [Photo courtesy of the Iraqi Ministry of Defence]

Iraqi forces last week succeeded in driving out the remaining pockets of "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) elements from Haditha island in western Anbar province, Iraqi officials told Diyaruna.

The army, with support from tribal fighters, routed the group from the island on September 21st, just one day into the battle, military officials said.

The battle was part of a larger Iraqi operation to rid the desert areas along the north-eastern bank of the Euphrates River, known as the Anbar islands, of any remaining ISIL elements who fled there from the cities.

Swift victory

At dawn on September 20th, al-Jazeera and al-Badiya Commander Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Mohammedi told Diyaruna joint forces from the command, the Iraqi army's 7th Division and tribal fighters launched a major operation to liberate the areas of the Haditha, Heet and Ramadi islands north-east of the Euphrates.

"We were able within one day from the start of the operation to secure the whole of Haditha island, which lies within Haditha district and also is known as al-Baghdadi island," he said.

The joint forces have "crushed the ISIL remnants still in the island and destroyed their weapons", al-Mohammedi said.

"We have killed more than 50 terrorists and destroyed 200 of their car bombs, and also blown up around 300 improvised explosive devices (IEDs), 20 rocket launchers, and various equipment used in bombings," he said.

The area is now secure and free of ISIL elements, he said, adding that the swift Iraqi victory indicates ISIL is unable to withstand the assault of Iraqi forces.

"We have taught the enemy a lesson they will not forget, and they will no longer be able to pose any threat to the cities of Haditha and al-Baghdadi and the other areas along the west bank of the Euphrates River, such as the area of Albu Hayat," al-Mohammedi said.

Iraqi forces have successfully completed the first phase of the military operation, he added, and will continue the push to clear the islands of Heet and Ramadi of ISIL elements and ensure the security of all liberated cities in Anbar.

Restoring security in Anbar

The new Anbar campaign is aimed at "hunting down ISIL elements who fled to the desert and preventing them from regrouping and attacking liberated cities or threatening them with rockets", Haditha mayor Mabrouk Hamid told Diyaruna.

The campaign began in Haditha island, he said, where military forces and tribesmen were able to re-establish control on the first day.

ISIL's presence has been eliminated and the group's equipment has been destroyed, Hamid said, adding that the area stretching from the north and east of Haditha and al-Baghdadi towards south-west Salaheddine province is now safe.

"The forces also were able to liberate the villages inside the island -- al-Kusairiyat, al-Umairiya and al-Khalidiya -- and fly the Iraqi flag over al-Shahid Wahid bridge, which had been one of ISIL's key lines, while extending their control over the farming land next to the Euphrates River," he said.

"The island area has been a major source of threat due to the safe havens it provided for the terrorists, allowing them to hide themselves," Haditha district municipal council head Khalid Salman told Diyaruna.

"The military forces have quickly decided the battle in their favour and cleared the area of terrorists, and our areas are now safe," he said.

"ISIL is defeated and completely broken in Anbar and it has no ability to put up a fight," Salman added. "It is only a matter of time before the last ISIL man in our province is eliminated, and soon terrorism will have no place in our country."

The local government is focused on reconstructing areas ravaged by ISIL, he said, "and we strive to restore normal life in our cities and shake them free of the debris of war".

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