Anbar tribal mobilisation forces on Thursday (June 29th) kicked off a campaign to secure a vital desert highway from the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS), Iraqi officials told Diyaruna.
The campaign will secure Kilo 160 highway which extends from the west of Anbar's provincial capital of Ramadi to al-Nakheeb in the south, said Col. Sami Mushaya al-Fahdawi, commander of Anbar tribal forces' al-Jazeera regiment.
"In co-ordination with the Iraqi army's 1st Division, we seek to secure the highway in full and fend off threats posed by ISIS elements," he told Diyaruna.
The campaign will deploy fixed and mobile security patrols, set up night checkpoints, and conduct reconnaissance missions deep into the desert from both sides of the highway, he said.
"The vital highway is a main road connecting the province to southern and central Iraq," said al-Fahdawi.
It is also used for hajj convoys and cargo, he added.
ISIS seeks to control highway
ISIS militants frequently attempt to attack the highway given its strategic importance as an access point to most cities in the province, including Ramadi, Heet and Haditha.
"ISIS also uses it as a supply route for its elements who are trapped in al-Qaim, in western Anbar," al-Fahdawi said.
A few days ago, ISIS gunmen fired five Katyusha rockets and mortars on Iraqi forces stationed along the highway, he said.
"Our military forces responded immediately to the source of fire and neutralised the threat," he said, noting that there were no casualties.
Al-Fahdawi, who leads a 200-man strong tribal force, urged the government to provide weapons and vehicles to the tribal forces now patrolling the highway.
"We call on the government to provide us with the necessary military equipment," he said.
"We have enough fighters, but lack in arms and mobility, monitoring and reconnaissance equipment," he added.