Iraq launches operation to retake key town from Daesh

Iraq launches operation to retake key town from Daesh
Iraqi police forces stand in front of armoured vehicles during a visit of an Iraqi army Staff Lieutenant at the Habbaniyah base, east of Ramadi in the Anbar province, in this May 9, 2016 photo, ahead of a military operation against the Islamic State (IS) group in the Rutba area. (AFP)
Updated 16 May 2016

Iraq launches operation to retake key town from Daesh

Iraq launches operation to retake key town from Daesh

BAGHDAD: Iraqi security forces and allied fighters launched an operation on Monday to retake the town of Rutba from Daesh terrorists, the military said.
Special forces, soldiers, police, border guards and pro-government paramilitaries are involved in the operation to retake the Anbar province town, Iraq’s Joint Operations Command said in a statement.
Tanks and artillery are taking part in the operation, which is also backed by air support from Iraqi forces and the US-led coalition against Daesh, it said.
Rutba, located in western Anbar province along the main road to Jordan, has been held by the group since 2014.
“Rutba’s important to the enemy because it’s another support zone for them,” said Col. Steve Warren, the spokesman for the US-led operation against Daesh.
IS uses it “to stage and prepare forces for operations in... the main battle area,” Warren told journalists in Baghdad last week.
“It’s not heavily defended as is Fallujah or as was Ramadi,” he said, referring to the capital of Anbar, which has been retaken, and its second city, which Daesh still holds.
Warren said the number of Daesh fighters in Rutba varies from around 100 up to several hundred, and that once the Iraqis “decide they want to liberate Rutba, they’ll be able to.”
Daesh overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in June of that year, and later made further advances in Anbar, seizing Ramadi in 2015.
Iraqi forces have since regained significant ground from the extremists, securing the Ramadi area earlier this year and retaking the town of Heet last month.
But parts of Anbar — including Fallujah — are still under Daesh control, as is most of Nineveh province, to its north.
On Sunday, suicide attackers stormed a gas plant north of Baghdad , killing at least seven people and setting fire to tanks.
The attack on the Taji plant, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of the capital, was launched at dawn.