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Country Risk

Iraq launches two offensives to secure Syrian border crossings

27 October 2017
Federal Police troops launch rockets towards Kurdish positions in northwest Iraq on 26 October. Source: Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images

Key Points

  • Iraqi government forces attacked Kurdish positions on the same day that the final offensive against the Islamic State was announced.
  • The Peshmerga apparently repelled the initial advances.

Iraqi government forces have launched simultaneous offensives against the Islamic State’s last stronghold on the Euphrates river valley and Kurdish forces in the northwest of the country in an apparent bid to take control of key crossing points on the Syrian border.

“Today we began an operation to liberate the last Daesh [Islamic State] stronghold,” Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced in a statement. “We have rejected the idea of containing Daesh and decided to eliminate it because its survival would be a danger to all.”

The US-led coalition said on the same day that it was supporting the Iraqi operation to capture Al-Qaim district, saying there are approximately 1,500 Islamic State fighters in the area.

The Islamic State still controls a swath of territory running from Rawah to Al-Qaim 85 km to the west and across the border into Syria.

On the same day, the Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) reported that Iraqi government forces and Popular Mobilisation militias had attacked on four fronts, including towards the strategically important town of Faysh Khabur, where a bridge crosses the Tigris river into Syria.

“As of 1200 h, the Peshmerga heroically repelled today’s attacks, destroying three tanks, five US [-made] Humvees, and one Badger [armoured vehicle]. Having retreated from the areas, Iraqi forces have resorted to shelling Peshmerga positions,” the KRSC said.

Iraqi Federal Police units were photographed as they fired 122 mm D-30 howitzers, improvised rocket launchers, and mortars at Kurdish positions on that day.

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