Iraqi Security Forces have moved towards Qaim and Rawa in west Anbar province near the border with Syria, to capture the remaining Islamic State-held territory in Iraq.
Anbar Police Commander Hadi Kasar told NRT on Wednesday, October 25 that ISF had begun to move towards both towns, while Reuters reported that Iraq’s military said the offensive was about to be launched.
Earlier, the Iraqi Air Force dropped leaflets in the region which read “Your security forces are now coming to liberate you,” a statement from Joint Operations Command said. “Tell those among your children and relatives who took up a weapon against the state to throw it aside immediately, and to go to any house on top of which a white flag have been raised when the liberation forces enter al-Qaim.”
Jordan’s Petra news agency reported that the leaflets also warned residents to avoid ISIS locations, and told ISIS fighters that if they surrendered they would be given fair trials.
Petra’s military source said that preparations for the offensive to capture the two towns are complete, and that troops are waiting for Iraq’s joint military command to officially announce the start of the operation.
Meanwhile, Watan news reported a statement from Popular Mobilization Units commander Major General Ali al-Akbar which read: “The liberation operations of al-Qaim and Rawa will be launched on Thursday.”
The area is the only remaining significant territory held by ISIS in the country, after the U.S.-led Coalition-backed ISF captured Tal Afar in August and Hawija earlier this month. After Hawija’s capture, the U.S. Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Brett McGurk tweeted that Iraqi forces began to move to west Anbar to prepare for an offensive to capture Rawa and Qaim and secure Iraq’s borders with Syria.
In September, a source familiar with anti-ISIS operations told The Globe Post that Iraqi Security Forces had planned to launch the Qaim mission alongside the Hawija operation, but it was delayed due to tension between Baghdad and Erbil over the Kurdistan independence referendum held on September 25.
On Monday, the UK Ministry of Defence announced it was sending an additional medical team to Al Asad Airbase, around 140 kilometers (87 miles) from Qaim. The MoD also said its troops there would begin to move forward from the base for the first time in eight years.