Iraqi forces launch major anti-IS offensive

Iraqi security forces have launched a major offensive against the Islamic State (IS) terror group in a mountainous area in Salahudin province, the military said.

Iraqi forces, backed by the US-led coalition and Iraqi aircraft, began the offensive on Sunday in the mountain ranges of Makhoul and Khanogah, Xinhua news agency quoted the media office of the Iraqi Joint Operations Command (JOC) as saying in a statement.

The first day of the several-day operation resulted in the seizure of 14 roadside bombs, rocket launchers, and 10 mortar rounds as well as finding two tunnels used by the IS militants in the mountains, the JOC statement said.

The forces conducted a series of airstrikes on the IS positions, Yahia Rasoul, spokesman of the Commander-in-Chief of the Iraqi forces said in a separate statement.

JOC spokesman Tahsin al-Khafaji told the official Iraqi News Agency (INA) that the security forces “pursued a new tactic through setting up towers and thermal cameras for surveillance to prevent the extremist militants from returning to the areas”.

The mountains and vast rural areas in Salahudin province have witnessed intense IS activities during the past months, despite repeated military operations to hunt them down.

The security situation in Iraq has been improving since 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.