Joint Iraqi forces on Sunday (July 7th) embarked on a massive military campaign to drive "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) remnants out of Iraq's western desert and from areas along the Syria border.
The "Will of Victory" campaign, announced by Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, aims for the total elimination of ISIS cells in the desert that stretches across Anbar, Salaheddine and Ninawa provinces and up to the Iraq-Syria border.
Joint forces of the al-Jazeera, Anbar, Salaheddine and Ninawa operations commands and the Border Guard are among the participating forces, Iraqi Defence Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Tahseen al-Khafaji told Diyaruna.
Iraqi and international coalition warplanes are providing air cover, he said, as ground forces push towards the border from southern Ninawa, western Salaheddine and the Upper Euphrates desert in northern Anbar.
The large-scale assault was launched in response to information provided by the Iraqi intelligence services, international coalition and the ministry's Joint Security Centre, according to al-Khafaji.
This indicated ISIS cells were hiding out in desert caves and valleys and had been taking advantage of areas between the various operations commands' areas of responsibility where security was not rigorously enforced.
The group's remnants had established bases and hideouts in these areas, where they were attempting to regroup, al-Khafaji said.
In response to the latest intelligence, "the Joint Operations Command immediately planned the campaign and launched it with the rest of the supporting forces", he added.
'Largest of its kind since 2017'
The "Will of Victory" campaign is the largest of its kind since ISIS was defeated in December 2017, in terms of the scale of the military units involved and because it was launched from several directions, al-Khafaji said.
Since its launch, he said, "dozens of terrorists have been killed and others captured, a large number of rest-houses and explosives have been destroyed and weapons have been seized".
"Incredible results have been achieved so far," he said.
On the first day of the campaign, participating forces destroyed eight ISIS sites, a trench used by the group and 16 improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and seized two motorcycles, according to a Sunday night Security Media Cell statement.
The villages of Khuneifas, al-Maliha, Umm al-Tous, Kuweis, al-Kawin, Umm al-Izam, al-Sadda and al-Miskar, which lie within the al-Jazeera and Anbar commands' area of operation, have been searched.
Within the Ninawa command's area of operation, an ISIS camp has been destroyed and a car bomb and an IED have been defused, the statement said.
The Salaheddine Operations Command has destroyed two sites, one hideout, 27 IEDs, three explosive belts and 23 shells and mortars, and has secured al-Sukariyat bridge and the villages of Sabih al-Bakara, Albu Jalib and Albu Rajab, it said.
Border Guard units meanwhile searched a 10-kilometre section of the border strip with Syria.
"The campaign continues at an accelerated pace, and our soldiers are determined to end the ISIS presence in those desert areas," al-Khafaji said.