Iraqi forces break 18-month Islamic State siege of Haditha
Iraqi government troops supported by tribal fighters and coalition air cover have broken the Islamic State siege on the city of Haditha in Anbar province, military sources said on Monday.
Iraqi forces retook several villages from the jihadists along the Euphrates River, a statement from Iraq's joint operations command coordinating the fight against IS said.
The Iraqi army's 7th division had been moving down the river from al-Baghdadi and eventually joined up with forces from the counter-terrorism service moving up from the town of Hit.
"The road is therefore open between Hit and Haditha, via al-Baghdadi, after an 18-month siege by the terrorists of Daesh," the statement said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.
"The siege of Haditha and al-Baghdadi was broken after liberating the strategic highway between Baghdadi and Hit," Major General Ali Ibrahim Daboun, the army commander responsible for the area, told AFP.
Faleh al-Namrawi, a tribal official from Haditha told The New Arab that lifting the IS siege on the area represents a severe blow to the militant group.
|Opening the road between Hit and Haditha will enable Iraqi forces to move supplies and equipment to western Anbar
"Opening the road between Hit and Haditha will enable Iraqi forces to move supplies and equipment to western Anbar," Namrawi said.
"Government and tribal forces will now continue implementing their operational plan to liberate areas in western Anbar in order to retake the entire province".
Haditha, 210 kilometres (130 miles) northwest of the capital Baghdad, is the third city in the vast province of Anbar and lies near the country's second largest dam.
It has come under repeated attack since IS militants launched their massive offensive in Iraq in June 2014, but the dominant tribes there were able to hold them off.
For months, the city's main lifeline was the nearby military base of al-Asad, which was only accessible by air.
Iraqi forces, with backing from the US-led coalition that carries out daily airstrikes against IS, have retaken significant ground from the jihadists in recent months.
IS still controls Fallujah city only 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of Baghdad, but it is almost completely besieged by pro-government forces.
The jihadists also hold large areas deeper in the province, including several towns along the border with Syria.