Iraqi Army wages major attack against DAESH in Anbar

Iraqi Army units embark extensive military campaign against DAESH-controlled areas in western Anbar Province to reclaim city of Hit from terrorist organisation

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A helicopter belonging to the Iraqi army flies during a military operation in the west of Samarra, in the desert of Anbar, on March 7, 2016.

Iraqi National Forces have launched a broad offensive to retake the city of Hit from DAESH in the western province of Anbar, a top commander said on Saturday.

Led by the elite Counter-Terrorism Service, forces from the police, army and local tribal fighters were making a final push to retake Hit, 145 kilometres (90 miles) west of Baghdad.

"They have begun a broad operation to liberate Hit and Kubaysa," Major General Ali Ibrahim Daboun, the head of the Al-Jazeera Operations Command, told AFP.

Kubaysa is a smaller town a few miles west of Hit, which DAESH terrorists have been controlling since October 2014.

Daboun indicated that Iraqi aircraft and fighter jets from the US-led international coalition were providing air support.

Al Asad military Air Base, which houses a large contingent of US and other foreign military advisers, lies around 35 kilometres northwest of Hit.

After launching a final push against DAESH in the provincial capital Ramadi late last year, Iraq's security forces established full control over the city last month.

Aid agencies have voiced concern over the fate of an estimated 35,000 civilians, who have fled Hit and its surroundings in the run-up to the latest military offensive.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said late Friday that thousands of freshly displaced people were stranded in areas where very little assistance is available.

The organisation said it was able to deliver aid for the first time on Friday to around 12,000 people west of Ramadi.

"We don't know how they managed to survive. Repeated access is crucial in order to help the remaining thousands of people who urgently need humanitarian aid," said Katharina Ritz, head of the ICRC delegation in Iraq.

DAESH still controls vast areas of Anbar Province, near the borders with Jordan and Syria, as well as the city of Fallujah, which is only 50 kilometres from Baghdad.

DAESH has lost half the territory they controlled in Iraq after the successful retaking of Ramadi by the Iraqi Army in late December. Ramadi is the capital of Iraq's western province of Anbar, and its loss to DAESH in May 2015 was considered a huge loss and strategic blow to the Iraqi Army and the anti-DAESH coalition.

The terrorist group seized Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city, after the capital Baghdad, in June 2014 before breaking through the Sykes-Picot border to create a corridor linking them to their branch in Syria.

DAESH has controlled 73,440 square kilometres of ground as of Monday, an area equivalent to the half size of England according to military analysts of the IHS Jane’s Conflict Monitor.