Iraqi operation to retake Anbar province underway

In this Friday, June 19, 2015 photo, Iraqi security forces take up combat positions at the front line against the Islamic State group, in Husaybah, 8 kilometers (5 miles) east of Ramadi, Iraq. (AP Photo)

Iraqi troops backed by mainly Shi'ite Muslim militias launched military operations on Monday to recapture the country's largest province Anbar from ISIS militants, a military statement broadcast on state television said.

The announcement of the offensive comes two months after ISIS militants seized Anbar's capital Ramadi, extending their control over the Sunni Muslim province west of Baghdad.

"At 5 o'clock this morning operations to liberate Anbar were launched," said a joint military command statement read out on state television.

It said the offensive was being carried out by the army, mainly Shi'ite militia known as Hashid Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) units, special forces, police and local Sunni Muslim tribal fighters.

The statement gave no other details, but military officers and Hashid Shaabi commanders have said the initial target will be the city of Falluja, about 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad.

Hadi al-Ameri, commander of the largest Shi'ite force, the Badr Organisation, told Iraqi television on Sunday he expected the main assault on Falluja to take place after the Eid holiday at the end of Ramadan, later this week.

Residents in Falluja and Ramadi reported heavy bombardment of both cities early on Monday. Security sources said ISIS insurgents also fired rockets and launched several vehicle bombs against army positions.


Last Update: 09:07 KSA 12:07 - GMT 09:07