Iraqi forces on Monday (April 27th) launched a massive hunt for "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) remnants hiding in the desert north of al-Rutba in western Anbar, after an armed attack on a local official.
The operation came hours after ISIS remnants raided the home of Sheikh Talal al-Absi, a member of the al-Waleed district council, which lies within al-Rutba's administrative borders. They killed al-Absi and kidnapped his son.
Attacks by militants have been on the rise in the area, which lies adjacent to the Iraq-Syria border.
Monday's attack is the "fourth high-level terrorist attack carried out [in al-Rutba] since the start of the year", Anbar tribal commander Sheikh Qatari Samarmad al-Obeidi told Diyaruna.
There has been an uptick in ISIS remnants' activity in the desert north of al-Rutba, which stretches from south of the city of al-Qaim to al-Waleed district, along the border with Syria, he said.
He attributed this to "the terrorists' desire to carry out operations that would resonate in the media and in order to boost their morale".
The ISIS remnants "are still not dangerous, but they are able to manoeuvre and carry out surprise attacks", al-Obeidi said, noting that they clandestinely move about, usually aiming their attacks at villages with lax security.
Security forces have focused their search operation on areas adjacent to the border strip with Syria, including Akashat, al-Husseiniyat, Wadi Houran, Muaishar and Amij, he said.
Units from the army, police, tribes, popular mobilisation and border guard forces, backed by Iraqi air cover, are participating in the operation, he said.
Three ISIS tunnels and several rest-houses have been fully destroyed so far, he said, noting that the operation will continue until it achieves its goal of eliminating ISIS hideouts.
Meanwhile, the al-Jazeera Operations Command, the army's 7th and 8th divisions and tribal forces continue their security efforts to search the desert north of al-Qaim, said al-Obeidi.