The Iraqi army and its allies have retaken the strategic Al-Baghdadi Island region in the western Anbar province from the ISIL extremist group, Major-General Qassim al-Muhammadi, commander of the army’s Al-Jazeera Operations, said Friday.
"The army’s Seventh Division, backed by armed Sunni tribesmen, has entirely liberated Al-Baghdadi Island from ISIL," he told Anadolu Agency.
"Army units and tribal fighters have since imposed total control over all the villages of the region," he said.
Anbar’s Al-Baghdadi region is located some 90 kilometers west of provincial capital Ramadi.
According to al-Muhammadi, several ISIL militants were killed -- and numerous arms and equipment seized -- during the operation.
The commander went on to say that Iraqi troops and tribal fighters -- backed by air power provide by a 60-nation U.S.-led coalition -- were now setting their sights on the nearby Hit Island region.
Major-General Ismail al-Mahlawi, commander of the army’s Anbar Operations, said coalition warplanes had struck ISIL concentrations near the nearby Ramadi Island region, which the army captured Thursday.
"Ten ISIL extremists were killed by airstrikes before they were able to reach Camp Bravo [in Ramadi Island], where our forces are based," al-Mahlawi told Anadolu Agency.
- Target: Mosul
In the Saladin province north of Baghdad, meanwhile, Iraqi security forces are now preparing to advance on the northern city of Mosul from the town of Al-Shirqat, which was captured from ISIL on Thursday.
Located some 60 kilometers south of Mosul, Al-Shirqat had been considered one of ISIL’s last strongholds in the area.
"With the capture of Al-Shirqat, security forces have managed to cut ISIL’s supply line between Mosul and the Hawija district [the group’s last bastion in the Kirkuk province]," Brigadier General Yahia Rasul, a spokesman for the army’s Joint Operations Command, told Anadolu Agency.
Rasul went on to describe Al-Shirqat as ISIL-held Mosul’s "first line of defense".
With a population of roughly 200,000, Al-Shirqat was captured by ISIL in mid-2014, when the group overran vast swathes of territory in Iraq’s northern and western regions, including Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city.
According to Captain Ghassan al-Obeidi, an officer in the army’s Saladin Command, "security forces in Al-Shirqat are now preparing for the push on Mosul".
When exactly the advance will begin, however, still remains up to Iraq’s Supreme Military Command, al-Obeidi told Anadolu Agency.
In recent months, the Iraqi army -- backed by coalition airstrikes and local allies on the ground -- has managed to retake much territory from ISIL.
The extremist group, however, still remains in control of several parts of the country, including Mosul, which Iraqi officials have vowed to recapture by year’s end.