Iraqi forces on Sunday (October 6th) launched the sixth phase of the "Will of Victory" security campaign to clear areas stretching from south-west Salaheddine province to northern Anbar and Ninawa Island of "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) remnants.
Iraqi forces kicked off the campaign on July 7th, with the earlier phases focused on clearing ISIS remnants from large areas on the outskirts of Baghdad and from Anbar, Diyala, Ninawa and Salaheddine provinces.
The new operation, which covers a large geographic area, was "necessary", said Salaheddine provincial council security committee member Abd Sultan Issa al-Jubouri.
The targeted area includes the Makhoul mountains and a sprawling desert area extending from al-Tharthar lake to the road connecting the cities of Baiji north of Tikrit and Haditha in western Anbar, to southern Hatra in Ninawa, he said.
"Our security reports indicate the presence of ISIS elements' movements and hideouts in these areas, but they are limited and consist of fragmented cells that are not managed by a central command," he said.
"They do not move about much and are always hiding in secret shelters that are set up in a way that makes them hard to detect," said al-Jubouri. "Nevertheless, intensive airstrikes and reconnaissance flights do not allow them to survive for long."
'No significant threat'
"The continuous airstrikes have restricted the terrorists' movements and activity," he said, adding that dozens have been killed in concentrated international coalition strikes, especially in the Makhoul mountains.
The strikes were accompanied by surprise military operations against specific ISIS targets that were detected in advance by Iraqi intelligence sources, he said.
The newest military operation is "part of the constant security pressure on ISIS's remnants to weaken them and end their presence", al-Jubouri said.
Several rest-houses have been destroyed during this phase and light and medium weapons and stocks of live ammunition have been seized, he noted.
"Previous military operations have undermined the terrorists' weapons and equipment supply sources, so they rely only on what remains of their old stock, which is running out due to the intense and persistent attacks," he said.
Al-Jubouri stressed that ISIS remnants "do not pose a significant threat" to Salaheddine province and other liberated provinces.
"The situation is under control; the terrorists have no way of carrying out any major attack," he said, noting that their attacks are "small, negligible and often in remote areas".