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Iraq military launches Anbar offensive

Two villages have been retaken in the joint military operation which was launched two months after Ramadi fell to IS
Iraq's military announced the operation "liberate Anbar" on Monday morning (AFP)

Iraqi forces have retaken two villages in Anbar on Monday as part of their operations against the Islamic State (IS) in the western province, security officials said.

The troops were backed by mainly Shia militias during the offensive – which comes two months after Anbar’s capital Ramadi fell to IS.

"The security forces were able to advance and liberate the areas of Albu Shijil and Shiha near Khaldiyah, between Saqlawiya and Ramadi," an army lieutenant colonel said.

He said the operation was made possible by the fact that anti-IS forces had trapped the fighters from the group inside their stronghold of Fallujah, further east.

A top official from the Khaldiyah area, Ibrahim al-Fahdawi, confirmed the liberation of the two villages in the Euphrates Valley.

Iraq's joint operations command announced the launch of "operations to liberate Anbar" at 5am local time, but provided few details.

The joint military statement said the offensive involved the military and special forces, a mainly Shia militia known as Hashd al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilisation, and local Sunni tribal forces.

Hashd al-Shaabi said its forces were advancing northeast of Fallujah, an IS bastion which has escaped government control since early 2014 and where US troops faced the toughest battles of their eight-year occupation.

Iraqi security forces, Shia militiamen and Sunni tribesmen have been fighting IS around Fallujah and Ramadi for months.

A previous operation to liberate Anbar was announced in the immediate aftermath of the shock capture by the militants of the provincial capital Ramadi in mid-May.

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