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World

September 17, 2017

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Iraqi forces attack Islamic State in Syria border area

Iraqi forces attack Islamic State in Syria border area

BAGHDAD: Iraqi armed forces said on Saturday they had started an offensive to dislodge Islamic State from a border area holding some of the militants’ last towns in the country.

The offensive in the Akashat region, which has natural gas reserves and borders Syria, is meant to pave the way for the recapture of urban centres in the Euphrates river valley, including the border post of al-Qaim, military statements said.

The Iraqi air force dropped thousands of leaflets overnight on Akashat south of the Euphrates river as well as al-Qaim and the towns of Ana and Rawa, telling the militants to surrender or face death, the statements said.

Two different alliances are also advancing on Islamic State position on the Syrian side of the border there -- Syrian government forces supported by Russian air strikes and Iran-backed militias, and a US-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters.

The cross-border "caliphate" declared by Islamic State in 2014 effectively collapsed in July, when a US-backed Iraqi offensive captured Mosul, the militants’ capital in Iraq.

The towns in the border region with Syria and Hawija, a northern province close to the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, are the only urban centers still under Islamic State control in Iraq. The group overran about a third of Iraq in 2014 in a sweeping offensive that allowed the militants to grab hundreds of millions of dollars worth of weaponry and vehicles left by the fleeing Iraqi forces. —

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