Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has declared the beginning of the second phase of a massive military operation to liberate the northern province of Salahuddin from the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group.
In a late Monday statement, Abadi’s office said the operation, code-named Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah, will aim “to liberate the whole of Salahuddin province, including the Baiji refinery,” the country’s largest.
Some 600,000 Iraqi forces have been stationed in areas surrounding the town of Baiji to conduct a swift military operation to liberate the town, Russia al-Youm news website quoted Jassem al-Jabbareh, the head of the security committee of Salahuddin’s provincial council, as saying on Monday.
During the first phase of the operation in March, Iraqi troops backed by volunteer fighters recaptured some areas in Salahuddin, including the provincial capital Tikrit.
On March 31, 2015, the Iraqi premier declared the liberation of Tikrit from the hands of the Daesh extremists following weeks of intense fighting.
Located some 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, Tikrit was seized by the Daesh terrorists last summer along with Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul and other areas in the Arab country’s Sunni heartland. Tikrit has a strategic position as it sits on the road to Mosul.
Operation to liberate Ramadi
In another development on Monday, Iraqi forces launched an operation to recapture the western city of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province.
“The operation with the aim of capturing [Ramadi] was started from the southern and western parts of the city after significant reinforcements arrived from Baghdad and other provinces to Anbar,” said Falih Essawi, the deputy head of Anbar’s provincial council.
Daesh captured Ramadi in May, which the United States blamed on lack of sufficient contribution from the Iraqi troops to counter the advance of the Takfiri group, an accusation dismissed by Baghdad.
Also on Monday, the Iraqi premier appointed Major General Ismail al-Mahlawi, the former commander of Anbar police, as the new head of Anbar operation to replace Major General Qassim al-Muhammadi.
Iraqi forces have managed to drive Daesh terrorists out of many areas they seized last year.
The northern and western parts of Iraq have been plagued by gruesome violence since Daesh terrorists began their campaign of terror in the country in June 2014.