Iraqi Forces Say Isis Retreating Deep into Desert

Iraqi Forces Say Isis Retreating Deep into Desert

 Iraqi forces said on Friday (November 24) Islamic State (ISIS) militants are withdrawing deep into the desert to escape an offensive now in its second day aimed at finally defeating them.

The militants have already been driven out of all of the towns they once held but Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said he will not proclaim victory until they have been cleared from the western desert bordering Syria.

The Hashid al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces) said its fighters had taken control of 77 villages and hamlets since the launch of the offensive on Thursday morning.

It said five ISIS militants had been killed south of the ancient desert city of Hatra but otherwise ISIS had put up little resistance.

Hashid al-Shaabi said that its fighters, who are mainly recruited from Shia groups, overran an airfield in the same area, where they discovered underground warehouses used by the militants.

Air support for the offensive, which also involves the army and federal police, has so far been provided exclusively by the Iraqi air force.

The U.S.-led coalition, which has provided air support for other offensives against ISIS in Iraq, said it carried out no strikes on Thursday.

At its peak in 2014, ISIS ruled over seven million people in a territory as large as Italy encompassing large parts of Syria and nearly a third of Iraq.

It is now being flushed out of its last desert hideouts in Iraq and is under attack by Russian-backed government forces and U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in its last pockets of control in Syria.