World Bulletin / News Desk
Iraqi troops and Muslim militia forces attacked ISIL fighters on several fronts in the country's largest province on Monday, saying the battle to drive the hardline militants out of Anbar was under way.
A spokesman for the joint operations command said the offensive, which began at dawn, brought together the army, mainly Hashid Shaabi militias, special forces, police and local Muslim tribal fighters.
Military sources in Anbar said they met fierce resistance from the insurgents, who deployed five suicide car bombs and fired rockets to repel their advance on the city of Falluja, about 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad.
There were also reports of fighting around the provincial capital Ramadi, captured by ISIL two months ago.
"At 5 o'clock this morning operations to liberate Anbar were launched," the military spokesman said.
ISIL's capture of Ramadi two months ago marked the biggest defeat for the Baghdad government since the militants swept through the north of the country last June and declared a caliphate in parts of Syria and Iraq straddling the border.
Until Ramadi's fall, Iraqi troops and Hashid Shaabi forces, backed by U.S.-led air strikes, had been pushing ISIL back, recapturing the eastern province of Diyala and former leader Saddam Hussein's home town of Tikrit, with the ultimate target of retaking the northern city of Mosul.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, angered at the army's withdrawal from Ramadi in mid-May, initially promised a swift counter-attack.
Although Ramadi remains the strategic target, military sources and Shi'ite militia leaders have said the initial focus will be on Falluja, which was the first city in Iraq to fall under militant control 18 months ago.
Last Mod: 13 Temmuz 2015, 16:06