A military operation to clear Samarra Island of "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) remnants and establish security in the area has yielded positive results, the Samarra Operations Command announced Friday (June 8th).
The command’s forces on Tuesday launched a major military operation in co-operation with Iraqi army artillery and aircraft, military engineering teams and paramilitary forces, commander Maj. Gen. Emad al-Zuhairi told Diyaruna.
"The operation's objective was to eliminate ISIS hotspots and cells hiding in Samarra Island, specifically in the area between the village of Albu Jaroub, the Lake Tharthar canal and al-Line road [west of Samarra]," he said.
The area, which stretches over approximately 30 square kilometres, is characterised by complex geographical terrain and abundant natural vegetation.
"A number of ISIS elements who escaped from Mosul, Tal Afar and Anbar headed to this area, taking advantage of its geographical terrain and proximity to desert areas," al-Zuhairi said.
"We carried out the campaign based on accurate intelligence and our units moved according to a well-devised plan," he said.
"The campaign achieved positive results as we succeeded in clearing the island of remaining militants and achieving security," he added.
Tightening the noose on ISIS
The joint forces killed at least 13 ISIS elements in the operation, most of whom had warrants for their arrest, said al-Zuhairi.
They also destroyed seven ISIS rest houses and confiscated weapons and explosives found inside them, he said.
"We have also burned down more than half of the thicket and weeds [in the island], which provided the militants with an ideal environment for hiding," he said.
Iraqi forces are seeking to reclaim agricultural lands in the area so that residents can cultivate them and settle there long-term, he said.
"Our campaign is over, but we will not stop and will continue our offensive operations in our sector of responsibility," he said.
This includes areas stretching from Lake Tharthar in the west to the al-Azim River in the east, and from Mukaishifa in the north to al-Abayji in the south, al-Zuhairi said.
"All areas of responsibility are fully secured," he said. "[ISIS elements] will have no choice but to hide in small groups in isolated areas within the boundaries of our military units’ sectors of responsibility."