Iraq launches military operation to recapture western border region

Smoke rises next to a position held by the Iraqi rapid response forces during a battle against Islamic State militants in the south of Mosul, Iraq February 19, 2017. — Reuters pic
Smoke rises next to a position held by the Iraqi rapid response forces during a battle against Islamic State militants in the south of Mosul, Iraq February 19, 2017. — Reuters pic

CAIRO, Oct 26 —Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi announced early today an offensive to recapture the western border region of al-Qaim and Rawa, close to the Syrian border, from the Islamic State militant group.

Al-Qaim and Rawa are the last patch of Iraqi territory still in the hands of Islamic State.

The group also holds parts of the Syrian side of the border but the area under its control is shrinking as the militants retreat in the face of two sets of hostile forces — a US-backed, Kurdish-led coalition and Syrian government troops with foreign Shiah militias backed by Iran and Russia.

Islamic State’s self-declared cross-border caliphate effectively collapsed in July, when US-backed Iraqi forces captured Mosul, the group’s de facto capital in Iraq, in a gruelling battle that lasted nine months.

Raqqa, the militants’ stronghold in Syria, fell to US-backed forces last week. — Reuters