Iraq says town of Heet retaken from IS after weeks of fighting

Iraqi government forces deploy in the town of Heet, in Anbar province, on April 7, 2016

Baghdad (AFP) – Iraqi forces retook the town of Heet from the Islamic State group Thursday after weeks of fighting, the military said, the latest in a series of losses for the jihadists.

“Units from the Counter-Terrorism Service completely liberated Heet,” Iraq’s Joint Operations Command said in a statement.

CTS spokesman Sabah al-Noman said the recapture of the town west of Baghdad was completed on Thursday.

“The town of Heet is cleared of any Daesh gunmen,” Noman told AFP, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

After securing Anbar capital Ramadi, Iraqi forces launched an operation in mid-March aimed at retaking Heet, one of the largest population centres in the province still under IS control.

But the drive was apparently delayed by a two-week sit-in by supporters of powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, as forces were pulled from Anbar to protect them.

IS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, and captured Anbar capital Ramadi the following year.

Iraqi forces backed by US-led air strikes and training have since regained signficant ground from the jihadists.

But IS still holds territory in Anbar and much of Nineveh province to its north, and it is also able to carry out frequent attacks against civilians and security forces in government-held areas.


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