Iraqi forces on Thursday (January 5th) launched an offensive aimed at retaking towns still under the control of the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) in western areas near the border with Syria, AFP reported.
"A military operation has begun in the western areas of Anbar to liberate them from ISIL," said Lt. Gen. Qassem Mohammedi, commander of the Jazeera Operations Command.
He said the operation was led by the army's 7th division, police, and fighters from local tribes that have opposed ISIL elements, with aerial backing from the international coalition.
The main targets of the operation are Anah, Rawa and al-Qaim, the westernmost Iraqi towns along the Euphrates Valley, with the most immediate target being the town of Anah.
"Our forces started advancing from Haditha towards Anah from several directions," Mohammedi said.
Haditha was never seized by ISIL when the group swept across much of Iraq in 2014 and is home to a tribe that has led the fight against ISIL elements in the area.
"Zero hour has come to liberate the western areas," Nazim al-Jughaifi, a commander with the Haditha tribal fighters, said.