BAGHDAD, July 7 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi security forces on Sunday launched an offensive to hunt down remnants of Islamic State (IS) militants in the desert and rugged areas in the provinces of Anbar, Salahudin and Nineveh to the border areas with neighboring Syria.
The Iraqi soldiers and paramilitary Hashd Shaabi units, backed by Iraqi and international aircraft, started the first phase of the offensive in early morning, and planned to continue it for several days, said Abdul Amir Rasheed Yarallah, deputy commander of Joint Operations Command, in a statement.
The troops pushed in multiple routes in the three provinces to chase the remnants of IS militants and to destroy their hideouts, Yarallah said.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, also commander-in-chief of Iraqi forces, said in a statement that the "Iraqi forces will achieve the victory on the terrorist gangs (IS militants) and will add to their record of victories new victories."
The security situation in Iraq was dramatically improved after Iraqi security forces fully defeated the extremist IS militants across the country late in 2017.
IS remnants, however, have since melted in urban areas or resorted to deserts and rugged areas as safe havens, carrying out frequent guerilla attacks against security forces and civilians.