As Iraqi forces pursue "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) remnants, they are working at the same time to cut off the group's food supply sources, local officials told Diyaruna.
Eliminating the militants’ supply sources is a "primary objective" for security and intelligence forces, said Anbar provincial council member Naim al-Koud.
"These forces are constantly carrying out special surveillance operations to arrest members of terrorist sleeper cells inside cities, who are responsible for delivering canned and dry food to [ISIS militants] hiding in the desert and the wilderness," he said.
These sleeper cells are among the main sources of supply for militants as they provide them with the food and drink they need to survive and continue their activities, he said.
"They are a lifeline for ISIS remnants."
Iraqi forces on August 29th apprehended four men in al-Sharqat in northern Salaheddine province, accused of smuggling food to ISIS remnants through the Tigris river.
The smugglers would dump defective freezers containing dry and canned food into the river, whose stream would then carry the floating containers to remote areas where ISIS remnants can pick them up.
The defendants confessed to smuggling food to ISIS every day using that method, and are now awaiting their trial at a Salaheddine court on charges of supporting and assisting terror groups.
Al-Koud stressed "the importance of developing a close partnership with local residents and cultivating streams of intelligence to uncover more secret suppliers".
He called for tightening controls and searches on main roads to seize any suspicious and unauthorised food cargos, and for using pilotless drones to monitor remote dirt roads that could serve as supply lines for the extremists.
Security forces frequently target secret routes used by militants to access food supply caches in the desert, said al-Koud.
A Diyala Operations Command unit on July 31st set fire to a truck laden with foodstuff after setting up an ambush on a remote road in the Qizlaqiz mountains region near Hamreen.
ISIS remnants in 'dire straits'
"Any targeting of the [militants'] food supply has a direct and devastating effect on ISIS remnants and hastens their demise," al-Hawija district council member Ammar al-Hamdani told Diyaruna.
"The remote desert villages whose homes and shops the terrorists used to raid to steal food are today secured and protected with security cordons," he said.
Residents are quick to provide any information that would help arrest those who collaborate with or support ISIS remnants by supplying them with food, weapons or information, he added.
"The terrorist safe houses discovered by security forces often contain, aside from weapons and explosives, food supplies, which are disposed of immediately," al-Hamdani said.
"We are in the final throes of the battle to uproot ISIS completely from our country and strip this group of all sources of its strength and sustenance," said Ninawa provincial council member Khalaf al-Hadidi.
"Our forces are increasing the terrorists’ isolation in the desert and depriving them of food," he told Diyaruna.
Depriving ISIS remnants of food and water is "an essential part of any plan to succeed against the remnants of terrorism", he said.
The army and police forces in Ninawa province have destroyed numerous militant hideouts that contained supplies, and conducted several successful strikes against their convoys that were laden with food.
Intelligence reports indicate that ISIS remnants are "in dire straits, as the supplies they were receiving have dwindled severely in recent months and the food they have left is beginning to dry up", said al-Hadidi.
He stressed the need to "fortify the border with Syria and leave no gap that can be used by ISIS to smuggle supplies to elements besieged in the Iraqi desert".