Joint Iraqi forces on Wednesday (January 10th) launched a new campaign to hunt down remaining pockets of "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) fighters in the country’s western desert.
The campaign is being conducted under "the direct guidance" of Prime Minister Haider al-Abbadi, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Border Guards Commander Maj. Gen. Hamid Abdullah Ibrahim told Diyaruna.
It aims to "cleanse desert border areas in the southern part of the city of al-Rutba of pockets and hideouts of ISIS elements and eliminate their activity", he said.
Participating in the campaign, alongside the Border Guards, are other forces from the Anbar Operations Command and the Iraqi army’s 1st Division, which have moved on the target areas from four directions, Ibrahim said.
The new offensive is supported by the army's air force, "which has begun pounding enemy strongholds with precision strikes and combing the area in search of moving enemy targets", he added.
On the first day of the campaign, joint forces inflicted "major losses in the terrorists’ ranks", Ibrahim said, adding that "we have caused many deaths and destroyed their vehicles".
"Five enemy vehicles have been seized," he added.
ISIS safe-houses discovered
The campaign will continue until there are no more armed ISIS elements hiding out in the area, Ibrahim stressed.
In conjunction with this campaign, the Border Guards Command has been carrying out searches to uncover ISIS hideouts in the desert of neighbouring Najaf province, he said.
The 5th Border Area Command on January 3rd discovered interconnected underground ISIS safe-houses in a desert area called al-Ghurra.
The entrances to the safe-houses were camouflaged in a way that made them difficult to detect, covered with metal sheets topped with earth and branches.
The hideouts were empty when they were discovered, Ibrahim said.
The find "pushed our forces to increase searches in that area and neighbouring areas to make absolute certain there are no other safe houses or militant cells", he said, noting that the search for ISIS remnants is ongoing.