Security

Iraq launches 3rd phase of 'Heroes of Iraq' campaign

By Khalid al-Taie

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Iraqi federal police commanders on June 22nd inspect a map of operations against ISIS remnants as part of the third phase of the 'Heroes of Iraq' military campaign. [Photo courtesy of the Federal Police Command]

Iraqi forces on Monday (June 22nd) launched the third phase of the "Heroes of Iraq" military campaign to track down and strike "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) remnants in northern and eastern Iraq.

Units from the Salaheddine, Samarra and Diyala operations commands, and the 9th Armoured Division, are participating in one of the campaign's three fronts over an area of ​​approximately 5,000 square kilometres.

This includes areas that lie between the administrative borders of the Salaheddine, Diyala and Kirkuk provinces.

The forces on the first day of the operation achieved "impressive results", said Salaheddine Operations Command spokesman Brig. Gen. Firas Bashar Sabri.

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Iraqi soldiers on February 14th search for ISIS hideouts during the first phase of the 'Heroes of Iraq' military campaign. [Photo courtesy of the Iraqi Ministry of Defence]

Intelligence reports indicated that ISIS cells were concentrated in the areas of al-Ayth, al-Azim Basin, al-Mutaybija and the territory that lies between Diyala and Samarra.

"We destroyed several secret [ISIS] bases that contained food supplies and communication devices," Sabri said.

Additionally, three hideouts, four tunnels, two workshops for manufacturing improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and an ammunition cache were destroyed, he said.

Encircling ISIS remnants

The south-west Kirkuk front of the military operation saw the participation of Interior Ministry units that included the federal police command, the Rapid Response Division's command, and the SWAT and Tactical regiments.

These forces destroyed four ISIS hideouts, an explosives-making plant and detonated dozens of IEDs and rockets.

The third military front, which includes separate areas in Diyala, Salaheddine, Samarra and Kirkuk, involved brigades from the tribal and mobilisation forces.

They destroyed three hideouts, a munitions cache and a number of IEDs.

The operation is carried out with air support from the Iraqi air force and international coalition warplanes, Sabri said.

It is progressing according to a plan that aims to "surround the militants from all sides and not give them any opportunity to escape", he said.

Aerial photography is being used to comb and monitor the entire territory around the clock, he said, adding that they have cut important supply lines for the extremists.

ISIS elements are deteriorating rapidly, he said, noting that the operations they have carried out in the targeted areas in recent months have "merely involved planting bombs sporadically and attacking security checkpoints in remote areas".

The first phase of the "Heroes of Iraq" campaign took place in mid-February and covered 26,000 square kilometres in Iraq's ​​western desert.

The second phase, conducted June 2nd-4th, targeted an area of ​​7,000 square kilometres between the provinces of Kirkuk and Salaheddine.

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