Joint Iraqi and tribal forces are conducting search operations in various areas of Anbar's desert to look for "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) remnants, tribal leader Sheikh Qatari al-Samarmad al-Obeidi told Diyaruna Wednesday (May 1st).
The operations involve intensive aerial reconnaissance to detect ISIS elements in the al-Jazeera region towards Hatra district in Ninawa province.
They cover the villages of Basala, al-Ama, Tall al-Tayyarat, Juraybiaat, Abu Rasin, Bir Toumina and al-Akziz.
Albu Nimr tribal fighters in the village of al-Sukariyat north of Rawa "have managed to destroy a number of rest-houses containing stocks of weapons, food and medicine", al-Obeidi said.
"Tracking and aerial and land surveillance have been ongoing for about two weeks in the villages of Muaishar, al-Husseiniyat and al-Mudhim in the desert of western Anbar," he added.
The operations have so far led to the death of 10 extremists, he said, three of whom were responsible for the kidnapping and murder of several citizens who were picking truffles over the last two months around the village of al-Mudhim.
Four ISIS suspects also were arrested in al-Husseiniyat area, he said.
"A special security force earlier this week arrested a dangerous ISIS element known as Akir al-Hayani in a hideout in the desert of al-Nukhaib," al-Obeidi said.
Al-Hayani is a terror leader who was active in the ranks of al-Qaeda in 2004, he said.
Residents provide tip-offs
Security successes against ISIS remnants were achieved thanks to the "co-operation of desert locals and shepherds with the security forces and intelligence agencies", al-Obeidi said.
That co-operation has been picking up pace as residents are constantly at risk of being killed by ISIS remnants hiding in the desert, who also steal their herds or extort money from them, he said.
"Security forces are now able to advance into remote desert territory at a depth of 300 to 400 kilometres, especially in the areas of Wadi Houran, al-Qadhaf and al-Kaara," he said.
Al-Obeidi stressed that Iraq's western borders are fully secure.
"Iraqi forces have recently withdrawn some military units from the border areas with Syria because they were no longer needed in light of the increased stability in the area following the defeat of ISIS in its last stronghold of al-Baghouz in Syria," he said.