Iraqi forces launched Monday (May 4th) a search operation to hunt down "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) remnants in the Anbar desert, an Iraqi official said.
Operation "Lions of the Desert" will cover the areas of Wadi Houran and al-Husseiniyat, extending to the Syria border.
Joint forces from the al-Jazeera Operations Command and the tribal mobilisation, backed by Iraqi air cover, searched for ISIS hideouts in the desert of Wadi Houran and areas south of the city of al-Qaim in western Anbar, Col. Mousa Hamad al-Sanad, head of the Upper Euphrates tribal forces, told Diyaruna.
Three ISIS elements were spotted aboard a vehicle during the search operation, he said.
Iraqi forces chased the vehicle to the abandoned village of al-Mudhim, "where they engaged the terrorists who had hidden inside a mosque and old mud houses belonging to shepherds", he said.
"There was a heavy fire exchange with the terrorists, and after they ran out of ammunition, they detonated their explosive belts," said al-Sanad.
The vehicle was "loaded with large quantities of improvised explosive devices [IEDs]", he said, noting that the militants had been planning to plant the explosives on roads in nearby towns to target security forces and civilians.
The operation is "part of a pre-emptive move to respond to the enemy's recent uptick in activities and attacks in the sectors of Salaheddine and Diyala," al-Sanad said.
The Joint Operations Command has directed all military units to launch search campaigns, with a focus on the desert, as it serves as a launchpad for terror attacks on cities and villages, he added.
These forces are to resume "offensive operations against the enemy" so as not to allow ISIS to go on the offensive again and gain a foothold in the area, he said.
Iraq's ongoing political crisis and its struggle with combating the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have "affected the pace of security operations", he said.
The current climate has allowed ISIS remnants to launch attacks on security posts, using rest-houses and cells they have recently re-established, said al-Sanad.
The new operation aims to "discover and crush those hideouts, disrupt the enemy's movement and tighten the noose around it once more", he said.