BAGHDAD, Sept. 20 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi security forces said it launched two operations to free the town of Shirqat in Salahudin province and two areas in Anbar province from Islamic State (IS) militants, security sources said.
In Iraq's northern central province of Salahudin, the troops and allied paramilitary Sunni tribal fighters began at dawn the advance toward the town of Shirqat, some 280 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, from three directions following heavy artillery and mortar barrage, a provincial security source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
The troops will continue their advance toward the center of the town, the source said.
The liberation of the town, which is the last one under the IS control in Salahudin province, is part of a major offensive to liberate the major IS stronghold in Mosul, the capital of Iraq's northern province of Nineveh.
Mosul, some 400 km north of Baghdad, is the second largest city in Iraq. It has been under the IS control for more than two years since the extremist group took control of parts of Iraq's northern and western regions in June 2014.
In the western province of Anbar, the security forces and allied Sunni tribal fighters launched another offensive to free sprawling agricultural area of Jazirat Haditha near the town of Haditha, some 200 km northwest of the provincial capital city of Ramadi, and the nearby rural area of Jazirat al-Baghdadi, from IS militants, a provincial security source anonymously told Xinhua.
The operations in the province came as the Iraqi security forces and allied units are fighting to drive IS militants out of the province after they reclaimed key cities and towns, including the provincial capital of Ramadi, some 110 km west of Baghdad, the source said.
The reports of the provincial security sources came hours after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the launching of the operations in the two provinces, in a televised message from New York, where he is attending the United Nations General Assembly.
Iraqi security forces and allied units have been battling IS militants for retaking large territories in northern and western Iraq that was seized by the IS since June 2014.