Iraqi Forces Liberate More Areas from ISIS in Anbar Province

Iraqi Forces Liberate More Areas from ISIS in Anbar Province
Sat Mar 19, 2016 13:06:12

Iraqi forces have recaptured more areas from the ISIS Takfiri group as they close in on militants holed up in the flashpoint western city of Hit in Anbar Province.

Led by the elite Counter-Terrorism Service, forces from the police, army and local tribal fighters managed to seize control of a bridge in the city of al-Baghdadi, located northwest of Hit along the Euphrates, local media said on Saturday.

Iraqi forces launched an offensive earlier in the day to retake Hit, a city located 145 kilometers (90 miles) west of the capital Baghdad, which was seized by ISIS in late 2014. The operation also aims to liberate Kubaysah, a smaller town east of Hit.

Iraq’s al-Summeriyah TV said pro-government forces recaptured a cement factory in Kubaysah on Saturday.

Major General Ali Ibrahim Daboun, the head of the Al-Jazeera Operations Command, said Iraqi aircraft and jets from the US-led coalition were providing air support to facilitate the operation.

The recent advances come two days after Iraqi forces seized al-Muhammadi neighborhood of Hit on Thursday, hoisting the Iraqi flag on top of a government building in the area.

The Saturday army gains in Hit and its surrounding areas are the latest in Anbar after the government managed to recapture the provincial capital of Ramadi in late December.

The United Nations said in a statement Thursday that more than 50,000 people have been internally displaced in Anbar since the start of 2016 as a result of intense fighting between the government and Takfiri militants.

The International Organization for Migration has said more than 1.5 million people were displaced in Anbar since the beginning of 2014.

The Iraqi military on Friday managed to provide aid agencies with access to thousands of people who have been displaced in areas around the city as a result of the fighting.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was able to deliver aid for the first time to around 12,000 people west of Ramadi.

Katharina Ritz, head of the ICRC delegation in Iraq, called on government forces to allow more aid to reach civilians affected in the area.

“We don’t know how they managed to survive,” Ritz said of those rescued, adding that repeated access is crucial in order to help the “remaining thousands of people who urgently need humanitarian aid.”

A major offensive is also planned for the liberation of Fallujah, located north of Ramadi and just 50 kilometers from the capital Baghdad.

Military sources say Fallujah’s liberation will be followed by the long-anticipated offensive to retake Mosul, the capital of Nineveh province in the north, which is viewed as the stronghold of ISIS in Iraq.

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