BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraqi forces are poised to fight the most difficult battles in the country’s western desert to restore the Hawran valley, where the last sites of the Islamic state are located.
“Our units have cleared 50 percent of the Sahara, which has a total area of 29,000 square kilometers,” said Brigadier Yahya Rasool, spokesman for the Joint Operations Command. The first page has completed the second phase of the disinfection and the units will proceed to clear the rest of the desert areas, including the Valley of Houran ».
“The valley is deep and reaches the Syrian border,” he said. “The mission is to destroy all the oaks and hideouts in the desert and the valleys and secure the western borders of Iraq with Syria.”
Four days ago, Iraqi forces began their military operations, backed by the “popular mobilization” factions, to purge the Western Sahara of the country of remnants of the “Islamic state”.
The Horan Valley is the longest of Iraq’s valleys, located in Anbar province and extends along 350 km from the Saudi border to the Euphrates River and up to the Syrian-Jordanian border.
The state organization has controlled much of this area since 2014. The rugged terrain with areas up to 200 meters deep has provided a haven for the organization to establish its weapons centers, caches and weapons depots.
This is the last operation that is expected to announce at the end of Prime Minister Haider Abadi the final defeat of the extremist organization in Iraq.
In this process, Iraq is culminating in its continuous attack since 17 October 2016 against the jihadist strongholds, from Mosul, which took nine months of bloody fighting, to Tal Afar and Hawija north, to Anbar in the west of the country.
Cleansing 5 km
An official source in the Iraqi Rapid Response Forces Command announced that the military units had been cleared for a distance of 5 kilometers in the southern and western desert of Nineveh province.
Brigadier Jawad Abdul Ghani al-Alusi, head of the Rapid Response Unit of the Interior Ministry, said that “the forces of the counter-terrorism apparatus (the army elite) and the rapid response, the Nineveh police battalions, the popular crowd and the military formations continued for the fourth day Respectively, military operations in the desert of Nineveh province to terminate any presence of the organization ».
He added that «Iraqi forces and over the past four days, were able to liberate the areas and points located in the villages: Al-Shawaf and Umm Gharba, Bustan Radef, Tal Abu Rasan, Bustan Sharif, Abu Dawood, Beit Salem, Sayer Al-Mayouf, Abd Nazzal and Abu Nawaf The desert of the west of Nineveh, and control of the road linking the desert of Nineveh, Makhoul, Hawija (eastern Kirkuk).
“During the liberation operations, 19 armed elements of the state organization were killed, four combat vehicles were destroyed, more than 33 sites were used by terrorists in hiding, and a tunnel network of 14 tunnels with a length of 1 kilometer per tunnel,” he said.
He pointed out that «the Iraqi forces seized 130 large batteries to generate electricity and about 300 wireless communication devices, and hundreds of armor shields, and boxes of equipment, and various weapons belonging to the organization».
He pointed out that «the international coalition supports the Iraqi ground forces information obtained by the aircraft reconnaissance patrol the region periodically».
Alusi explained that “the operations of the Sahara continue until reaching the Syrian border in order to eliminate the state organization, and finally.”
He considered that «these operations the last military page against the organization will be witnessed by Iraq».
war of attrition
The state began preparing for a long-term war of attrition, during which it launched lightning attacks in a guerrilla war that the organization used mainly before gaining control of vast territory in Iraq and neighboring Syria three years ago.
“The organization of the state, after losing the urban war, took refuge in the desert areas, took the rearrangement of its papers and established its headquarters there, in order to adopt them,” Maj. Ali al-Baydani, a federal police officer in Hamat al-Alil district, 30 kilometers south of the northern city of Mosul, said. Destabilizing security and stability inside Mosul and its environs. “
He added that «the organization has already launched many terrorist operations against the security forces and civilians in the areas south of Mosul by relying on the hit-and-run method, taking advantage of vast desert areas through which they move freely in several Iraqi provinces».
The Iraqi officer stressed that “every day is spent on the existence of the state organization, in the desert without treatment (security) is growing stronger and gaining confidence to arrange its ranks and move from the stage of terrorist operations to normal operations, which cause great harm to the target.
14 terrorist incidents
In addition, Captain Ahmed Abdel-Elah, in the Criminal Archive and Documentation Unit of the local Ninewa police station, revealed that 14 terrorist incidents have occurred in southern Mosul since the beginning of November until now, in which civilians and members of the security forces have been killed, Materialism ».
He said that “most of the terrorist attacks that the state organization was carrying out after the liberation of Nineveh were manufactured improvised explosive devices, which are planted in vital areas, such as the main roads, in order to inflict heavy losses and at the same time.”
“Most terrorists in the desert are local fighters, not foreigners, and they are now trying to put the situation back in square one,” he said.
The Tigris River and its branches are the arteries of life in the areas of southern Mosul, which have a diverse geography between the plains, rocky hills, marshes and brushlands, as well as caves and natural caves.
“Since the liberation of these areas, we have realized that the security file has not been fully resolved,” said Abdul Salam al-Jubouri, an Iraqi army officer. “State-organized cells are still hiding in the bush.”
He added that «cleansing and combing operations are continuing in the region, but we are waiting for the approval of our leaders to set fire to some of the bush suspected of elements of the organization, including, raising the level of water to flood the caves and trenches where they hide to remove them like rats».