Iraq launches 2nd phase of operation to clear desert areas of Daesh

Iraqi forces have begun a new push to clear the last areas in the country’s arid west of pockets of Takfiri Daesh terrorists.

Troops and Popular Mobilization Forces (Hashd al-Sha’abi) “launched a major drive to clear areas of the al-Jazeera region between Nineveh and Anbar [Provinces] in the second phase of operations,” the Iraqi Joint Operations Command said in a statement on Friday.

The first phase, which had begun on November 23, cleared 50 percent of the total desert area of around 29,000 square kilometers.

Daesh began a terror campaign in Iraq in 2014, overrunning vast swathes in lightning attacks. Iraqi forces then launched operations to eliminate Daesh and retake lost territory, and last month, Iraqi forces liberated Rawa, the last remaining town in the grip of the outfit.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has, however, reserved announcing an ultimate victory over the terrorist group until after those last small concentrations are cleansed.

During a visit to the Middle East on Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron said he expected Iraq to declare victory over Daesh by the end of this month.