BAGHDAD, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi security forces on Thursday liberated the town of Aana and nearby areas in Iraq's western province of Anbar from Islamic State (IS) militants, the Iraqi military said.
The Iraqi army troops and armored vehicles, backed by paramilitary tribal fighters, fully liberated the town of Aana, some 280 km northwest of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, and raised Iraqi flags over some of its buildings, Lt. Gen. Abdul Amir Yarallah from the Iraqi Joint Operations Command (JOC) said in a brief statement.
The announcement came two days after security forces and allied Hashd Shaabi brigades launched an offensive to drive out IS militants from Aana and nearby areas, including the nearby small town of Rayhana.
On Saturday, Iraqi forces recaptured Akashat area and reopened a nearby strategic road near the Iraqi-Syrian border in another operation.
Iraqi security forces have dislodged IS militants from the key cities of Anbar Province, including Ramadi and nearby Fallujah, but the areas near the border with neighboring Syria, including Rawa and al-Qaim as well as the vast rural areas across the province are still under the control of the extremist IS militants.
Earlier in the day, Iraqi forces launched an anti-IS offensive elsewhere in the country and recaptured up to 21 villages as they are advancing to free the town of Hawijah in the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.
"With a new Iraqi dawn, we announce the launch of the first stage of an operation to liberate Hawijah," Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a brief statement.