As the "Will of Victory" operation in Iraq enters its second day, locals and commanders alike are optimistic that ISIS sleeper cells will soon be eliminated in the western border regions.
ISIS continues to maintain a presence, largely in the form of cells, in the desert regions crossing the provinces of Anbar, Salahuddin and Nineveh in the north of Iraq, all the way up to the border with Syria. A fully-fledged military operation has been launched by branches of the Iraqi Armed Forces, as well as the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), along with the participation of the International Coalition against ISIS. Tribal units in the region are also cooperating with the armed forces.
The operation has been named “Will of Victory”. The start of the operation has already led to successes against the terrorist group.
“In the first hour, the three bridges on the Tharthar Valley were controlled and units began to search the area, where some ISIS sites were found and some suspects were arrested”, said a military member participating in the operations.
These desert areas have been known to hold ISIS sleeper cells as they represent the final refuge of the terrorist group following its dramatic demise as a consequence of the liberation of Mosul, ISIS’ former de facto capital.
At the end of the second day of operations, the Ministry of Defence’s Spokesman, Yahia Rasool, announced that Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) discovered four dens belonging to IS militants, dismantled 40 rocket launchers, eight improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and took control of a makeshift plant that manufactures explosives and other booby-traps.
The PMU’s ‘war media’ announced that at the end of the second day of operations, PMU forces in the province of Anbar destroyed 14 camps belonging to IS and cleared 15 villages of terror cells. Iraq’s Security Media Cell later announced that three militants were killed in an Iraqi Air Force strike on a vehicle in northwest Nineveh.
During the third day of operations, Yahia Rasool announced that four militants have so far been killed. Additionally, an IED factory was also destroyed, along with a number of other vehicles and equipment used by the group to transport militants and dig tunnels.
This operation can be seen as a final endeavour in the physical fight against ISIS in Iraq as operations in the desert areas have been dragging on for months but without a clear final result. Operations until now have largely been launched on the basis of emergencies rather than a fully fledged offensive.