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Iraq Launches Offensive Against Islamic State

  • Zlatica Hoke

Iraq has launched an offensive to retake territory lost to Islamic State insurgents.

Local Kurdish and Shi'ite militias have joined government forces to fight the invading radical group and they are supported by coalition airstrikes.

At an army base in the north, General Najim al-Jabouri told his troops getting ready to start a ground offensive that police and local tribal militias will participate in the battle.

"We all work as a team. We have the highest level of coordination between us and the peshmerga forces, between us and the popular mobilization forces, as well as with tribal forces who will participate in this battle. All police members from different departments, local and federal police, in addition to the lions of the Iraqi army, supported by Iraqi air forces and army air forces," al-Jabouri said.

Coalition airstrikes already have begun to weaken Islamic State positions ahead of the ground offensive. Iraqi special forces and Shi'ite paramilitary fighters fought Wednesday to retake a major oil refinery from the militants.

The large Baiji refinery complex has changed hands several times in the past year.

The government recaptured it from the militants in November, and after losing control of it, recaptured it in April. Earlier this month, the militants broke through the perimeter of the complex and have been gaining ground.

In an exclusive interview with VOA, Iraq's President Fuad Masum acknowledged that defeating the militants, also known as Daesh, won't be easy.

"Eliminating Daesh isn't easy because they have many types of sleeper cells – not only in Iraq but in other countries, too. That is why one must think to fight Daesh on many fronts. One war is on the ground. The other fight is draining its financial resources. And to cooperate with other countries in sharing intelligence on those who are with Daesh and work for Daesh," said Masum.

The president stressed that international cooperation is essential to defeating Islamic State.

Meanwhile, the U.S.-led coalition conducted 20 airstrikes in Iraq and four in Syria targeting Islamic State militants in a 24-hour period ending early Friday, the Combined Joint Task Force leading the air operations said.

In Iraq, airstrikes carried out using attack, fighter, bomber and drone aircraft struck near Baghdadi, Baiji, Falluja, Makhmur, Ramadi, Sinjar and Tal Afar, the task force said in a statement Friday. In Syria, airstrikes carried out using bomber and fighter aircraft struck near Al Hasakah and Kobani, it said.

Some material for this report came from Reuters.

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