BAGHDAD, July 13 (UPI) -- A massive military operation aimed at retaking Iraq's Anbar province, lost two months ago to the Islamic State, began Monday, Iraqi state television announced.
Early morning raids were conducted on unspecified locations, beginning with an offensive by a 10,000-man coalition of the volunteer army Hashd al-Shaabi, the Iraqi military, the federal police, Shiite militias and local Sunni tribes. The capital of the province, Ramadi, was conquered by the Islamic State (IS) in May; in a long battle, the city of Tikrit was reclaimed, largely by the Hashd, earlier this year.
It is likely the city of Falluja, under attack by government and pro-government forces for weeks, is among the first targets.
"We promise to exact revenge from the criminals of Daesh (IS) in the field of battle," Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement. "Their cowardly crimes against unarmed civilians will only increase our resolve in pursuing them and evicting them from the last inch of Iraq's territory."
Anbar province is predominately Sunni territory, and the involvement of Shiite militias could aggravate sectarian tensions. Several of the militia groups were accused of war crimes in previous battles with IS.
The Hashd, which has the backing of Iran and of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the highest Shia religious authority in Iraq, has emerged as one of Iraq's most effective fighting forces.