Iraq Launches Offensive to Retake ISIS Bastion Hawija

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Iraqi security forces have liberated the western city of Anah near the Syrian border from the Daesh terror group (banned in numerous countries) militants, the commander of the operation Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir Yarallah said in a statement.

The US-led worldwide coalition is providing air support to the Iraqi forces' offensive on Hawija, Iraqi state TV said.

Clooney represents women of Iraq's Yazidi minority who were kidnapped and held as sex slaves by IS militants after the terrorist organization conquered large swaths of Iraq in mid-2014.

A US-led global coalition is providing air support to the Iraqi forces' offensive on Hawija, state TV said.

Islamic State's self-declared caliphate effectively collapsed in July, when US-backed Iraqi forces captured Mosul, the group's de facto capital in Iraq, after a gruelling nine-month battle.

On Tuesday, Iraqi forces launched an attack up the Euphrates Valley against the other one of IS's two remaining enclaves in Iraq.

Iraqi security forces have dislodged IS militants from the key cities of Anbar Province, including Ramadi and nearby Fallujah, but the areas near the border with neighboring Syria, including Rawa and al-Qaim as well as the vast rural areas across the province are still under the control of the extremist IS militants.

ISIS has suffered a series of crippling blows, including its loss of the strategically important town of Tal Afar in Nineveh province.

Iraqis who fled ISIS strongholds of Hawija and Shirqat arrive at the town of Dibis, northwest of Kirkuk, Iraq, Aug. 18, 2016.

Preparations for the operation have been overshadowed by a bitter dispute between Baghdad and Iraqi Kurdish leaders over their plans to hold an independence referendum on Monday in areas including Kirkuk.

Hours into Thursday's offensive, Iraq said its forces had gained ground against Islamic State.

Popular Mobilization fighters have so far seized seven villages in Sharqat from Islamic State, sources in the Shiite militia told dpa.

"Security forces are moving ahead with air cover from coalition and Iraq warplanes, which have begun bombing IS positions to break up its ranks", the source said.

"We will annihilate Daesh and prevent their return", he added, referring to Islamic State by its Arabic acronym.

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