As part of a military campaign to clear Anbar's western desert of remaining "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) pockets, Iraqi forces on Tuesday (November 21st) fully secured the road between the cities of Rawa and al-Qaim.
Units from the 7th and 8th divisions and the al-Jazeera Operations, in co-operation with local tribal fighters, were deployed on either side of the 85 kilometre-long road.
The campaign was launched two days ago in order to pursue ISIS elements after they were driven from Rawa on Friday, the group's last urban stronghold in Iraq.
The military units "began pushing into Anbar’s western desert towards Ninawa province and the city of Mosul to the north", Upper Euphrates Brigade commander Col. Moussa al-Karbouli told Diyaruna.
The Rawa-al-Qaim road has been fully secured, checkpoints and guard posts have been set up and the road has been cleared of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), he said.
About 50 IEDs planted by ISIS elements to hinder Iraqi forces' advance were defused, he said.
"Thirty-seven shepherds, suspected of being fugitive ISIS fighters, have been arrested in the area," said al-Karbouli, adding that they are currently being interrogated.
"We have combed large stretches of the area known as the Island of Rawa, and have reached parts of the desert that have not been under security forces control for many years," he added.
"Today, our joint forces are advancing with the support of army and international coalition warplanes," he said.
"We have gained a lot of experience in pursuing the enemy and are continuing to destroy all [ISIS] hideouts and clear the desert of the group's presence," said al-Karbouli.
"Once the mission is completed, we will direct our military forces south of the Euphrates river to the desert of Wadi Hauran, towards al-Rutba district, to fully clear that territory of any hiding terrorists," he said.