Senior Islamic State leaders killed as Iraq launches offensive

Senior Islamic State leaders killed as Iraq launches offensive
Dozens of Islamic State militants from the leadership ranks were killed in an airstrike on Saturday as Iraqi forces announced a new offensive to recapture Khalidiya island.
2 min read
30 July, 2016
The Khalidiya island offensive is led by Iraqi forces and tribal militias [Getty]
A senior Islamic State militant was killed in an airstrike that targeted their positions in Fallujah, Iraqi officials confirmed on Saturday.

Abu Abdullah al-Issawi, the deputy of the group's leader Abu bakr al-Baghdadi, was among the dozens of other high-ranking militants killed in the air raid that struck an IS headquarter in western Anbar and caused explosive devices on site to trigger several explosions.

Deputy minister of war, Abu Qaswarah and deputy leader of the Dabiq battalion and brother in law of al-Baghdadi, Abu Taha al-Azzawi were also killed in the government strike.

The news comes as Iraqi government forces announced the launch of an offensive to recapture the Khalidiya island - a strategic area which links Fallujah and Ramadi in the Anbar province.

The operation, which was launched at 8am on Saturday morning, triggered fierce fighting as Islamic State militants resisted.

"There is a response by the Daesh resistance that caused violent clashes," commander of operations, Major General Ismail Mahlawi told The New Arab, noting that "Iraqi forces are seeking to penetrate the island with aerial assistance".

"The international anti-IS coalition was not involved in the battle," he confirmed, adding that the fight was being led by Iraqi forces including the Popular Mobilisation militas.

"The liberation of the Khalidiya island would mean the complete liberation of the Anbar province, " tribal leader, Sheikh Hisham al-Halbousi told The New Arab.

"The Khalidiya island is the last bastion for Daesh in the province and hosts one of the militant headquarters," he said, noting that "Saturday morning's attack was unexpected."

Since late last year, IS has suffered a string of territorial losses, most recently last month in Fallujah, where it was driven out by Iraqi forces after occupying the city for more than two years.

But in response to the losses IS has begun to carry out near-daily bombings in and around Baghdad.