Iraqi forces launch anti-IS offensive near Baghdad

Iraqi security forces launched an offensive to hunt down extremist Islamic State (IS) militants in one of their major hideouts in Salahudin Province, a provincial police source said.

Iraqi army and police forces, backed by Iraqi and US-led coalition aircraft, pushed in the morning into Jazrat Ganous, an agricultural area covered with dense plants near the town of Shirqat, some 280 km north of the capital Baghdad, Mohammed al-Bazi told Xinhua on Monday.

The offensive started with a heavy aircraft and artillery bombardment to pave the way for the troops to build a bridge over the adjacent Tigris River to hunt down the extremist militants and destroy their hideouts, al-Bazi said.

As one of the most important strongholds in northern Salahudin, Jazrat Ganous area connects IS militants with neighbouring Nineveh Province via a desert land that also extends westward to the Iraqi-Syrian border, according to the police source.

The offensive is aimed at eliminating IS militants and establishing permanent military outposts in the area to prevent the return of extremist militants in the future, al-Bazi noted.

The vast rural areas in Salahudin have witnessed intense activity by the IS militants during the past months despite repeated military operations to hunt them down.

The security situation in Iraq has been improving since Iraqi security forces fully defeated the IS militants across the country late in 2017.

However, IS remnants have since melted in urban areas or deserts and rugged areas, carrying out frequent guerilla attacks against security forces and civilians.