Baghdad launches major operation against ISIL
REUTERS photoBacked by paramilitary forces and aerial support, Iraqi troops launched a new push on March 1 to retake a key area north of the capital, Baghdad, and dislodge Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants from the area, officials said.
The operation came as a group of suicide bombers targeted a military headquarters in Haditha in western Iraq, killing eight officers on March 1.
According to a statement by the Joint Operations Command, the “new offensive” began at dawn in an agricultural area northwest of the city of Samarra, 95 kilometers north of Baghdad.
The offensive is designed to cut ISIL supply lines and tighten the grip around the ISIL-held northern city of Mosul, the Associated Press reported.
The command said paramilitary forces, mostly Shiite militias, and the Iraqi air force were backing the push on the area, called Jazerat Samarra. The statement did not say if the U.S.-led international coalition was involved in the operation.
Controlling the Jazerat Samarra area will not only restrict ISIL militants’ movements between the three provinces in the region, but will also be essential for future operations to retake parts of Anbar province and Mosul, said Sabah al-Numan, the spokesman of the counter-terrorism forces.
Al-Numan told The Associated Press that two vehicles loaded with militants were bombed on March 1, and that the security forces managed to hit a would-be suicide car bomber before he reached his target.
The offensive comes on the heels of two massive bombings in as many days by ISIL in the area – in the town of Muqdadiyah and in Baghdad – that killed at least 110 people.
Meanwhile, four suicide bombers disguised in army uniform struck at dawn at the military headquarters in the city of Haditha, 240 kilometers northwest of Baghdad, killing eight troops, including a local army commander, councilman Khalid Salman told the Associated Press.
Staff Brig. Gen. Ali Aboud, Lt. Col. Farhan Ibrahim and four others were killed in the attack, sources told Agence France-Presse.
One of the bombers first attacked the gate of the building, then the others blew up themselves up when people gathered at the scene to help the victims. Salman said eight soldiers were also wounded in the attack.