Shiite Militias Leading Anti-IS Campaign

Shiite Militias Leading Anti-IS CampaignShiite Militias Leading Anti-IS Campaign

Iraq’s Shiite paramilitaries said on Tuesday they had taken charge of the campaign to drive IS from the western province of Anbar.

Shiite militiamen, supported by a smaller group of government troops, advanced on Tuesday to within a few kilometers of a university on Ramadi’s southwestern edge, police sources and Sunni tribal fighters allied to the government said.

As they passed through farmlands south of Ramadi, the militiamen told people to return home and stay inside, promising they would not be harmed, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, IS extremists unleashed a wave of suicide attacks targeting the Iraqi Army in western Anbar Province, killing at least 17 troops in a major blow to government efforts to dislodge the militants from the sprawling Sunni heartland, an Iraqi military spokesman said Wednesday.

The attacks came just hours after the Iraqi government on Tuesday announced the start of a wide-scale operation to recapture areas under the control of IS in Anbar.

Brigadier General Saad Maan Ibrahim, the spokesman for the Joint Military Command, said on Wednesday that the attacks took place outside the IS-held city of Fallujah late in the previous night. The militants struck near a water control station and a lock system on a canal between Lake Tharthar and the Euphrates River where army forces have been deployed for the Anbar offensive, he said.

The Iraqi government is scrambling to reverse the fall of Ramadi, its biggest military setback in nearly a year. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has vowed to recapture the Anbar provincial capital within days.