Iraq claims town near Syrian border from Islamic State



BAGHDAD, Kadhem al-Attabi and Khalil Hamlo (dpa) - Iraqi forces on Saturday claimed control of a western town near the Syrian border from Islamic State, hours after they started a major offensive against the extremist group there.
The government forces and tribal fighters have “completely liberated” the town of Akashat, a media centre linked to the operation said, according to state television al-Iraqia.



“Mop-up operations are still under way,” the centre added in a statement without further details.
Earlier Saturday, a military official announced the start of the campaign supported by a US-led air alliance.
The offensive is also aimed at tightening Iraq's hold on its border with Syria, a spokesman for Iraq's Joint Operations Command, Brigadier Yehia Rasool, said in a statement.
Akashat, in Iraq's far west, is rich in minerals, including phosphates. Islamic State seized the area in 2014.
Saturday’s attack is seen as a prelude for an expected Iraqi campaign aimed at expelling Islamic State from the last chunks of territory the militant group still controls along the border with war-torn Syria.
Meanwhile, a military alliance linked to the Syrian government on Saturday announced the beginning of an operation aimed at driving Islamic State militants from areas near the border with Iraq.
The self-styled Allied Forces of the Syrian Army added in a statement that its attack, backed by Russian airpower, started in eastern Syria.
The alliance composed of Iran-backed Shiite fighters said its forces seek to retake the Syrian border town of al-Bu Kamal from the radical Sunni Islamic State.
In recent months, Islamic State has suffered a series of military setbacks and lost ground in Iraq and Syria.
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Sunday, September 17th 2017
Kadhem al-Attabi and Khalil Hamlo
           


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