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IRAQ WARS
Iraq forces launch anti-IS push in western desert
by Staff Writers
Habbaniyah, Iraq (AFP) May 11, 2017


Three mass graves found in western Iraq
Habbaniyah, Iraq (AFP) May 11, 2017 - Three mass graves have been discovered in Iraq's western province of Anbar containing the bodies of civilians and members of the security forces, officials said Thursday.

It was not yet clear how many bodies the graves contained, a police lieutenant colonel said, adding that the victims had been executed by the Islamic State jihadist group.

The three sites are in the Saqlawiyah region, north of Fallujah, in the Karma area, east of Fallujah, and behind the old central library in central Ramadi, the province's capital.

Ramadi lies about 100 kilometres (60 miles) west of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, and Fallujah is located half-way between the two.

"Samples have been taken from the graves and it has been confirmed that the bodies belong to civilians and soldiers," the officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He said there appeared to be several dozen bodies in the three graves but added no definitive number was yet available.

Security forces were deployed to protect the site and forensic teams from Baghdad were expected in the coming days, he said.

Ammar Nuri al-Dulaimi, an official from the Martyrs Committee for Anbar province, said the discoveries were the result of an investigation by a purposely formed investigation team.

He said preliminary findings showed that some of the victims had been shot in the head, suggesting they were executed by IS.

The jihadists took control of those areas in 2014 and the security forces retook them at different times in 2015 and last year.

IS fighters carried out several spectacular attacks on military bases in the area in 2015, in some cases capturing large number of soldiers and executing them.

Iraqi forces have launched a broad operation to root out fighters from the Islamic State group who have been harassing security forces in remote border areas, officers said Thursday.

The army, backed by aircraft from the US-led coalition and local tribal fighters, launched their sweep at dawn in desert areas of Anbar province where the jihadists have hideouts, an army lieutenant colonel said.

"The security forces are advancing from an area called 'Kilometre 160', west of Ramadi, towards Nukhaib," said the officer stationed in Rutba, an outpost that is the last town on the road to Jordan.

Major General Mahmud al-Falahi, the head of Anbar Operations Command, said the goal of the operation is to flush out IS fighters in the desert and secure Rutba.

About 30 members of the security forces have been killed in attacks and ambushes by the jihadists in the Rutba area over the past three weeks.

Anbar is a sprawling desert province traversed by the Euphrates River and borders Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

It has long been an insurgent stronghold, and IS already controlled parts of it when it swept through Iraq in 2014 to take over around a third of the country.

Pro-government forces have since retaken most towns and cities in Anbar, but the jihadists still control areas near the Syrian border and have desert hideouts from which they harass federal forces.

Iraqi forces are also conducting a major operation further north in Anbar aimed at retaking the last towns along the Euphrates still controlled by IS near the Syrian border.

A major offensive launched in October to retake Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, has also made steady gains.

IRAQ WARS
Anti-corruption activists kidnapped in Baghdad; West Mosul battles on
Baghdad (AFP) May 9, 2017
Armed men have kidnapped seven young Iraqi anti-corruption activists in central Baghdad, security sources and a civil society leader said Tuesday. "Unidentified gunmen in SUVs abducted seven university students early Monday morning," an interior ministry official told AFP on condition of anonymity. He said the fate of the seven, who were snatched from the Battaween area, was unknown. ... read more

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