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Iraq secures highway to Syria to curb Islamic State attacks

By Andrew V. Pestano
Iraqi security forces are launching operations to safeguard Iraq from Islamic State threats coming from Syria by securing a highway linking the two countries. File Photo by Ahmed Jalil/EPA
Iraqi security forces are launching operations to safeguard Iraq from Islamic State threats coming from Syria by securing a highway linking the two countries. File Photo by Ahmed Jalil/EPA

May 9 (UPI) -- The Iraqi army said it sent security forces to a highway that connects with Syria to prevent Islamic State militants from reinforcing positions in war-torn parts of the country.

The Iraqi troops were sent to the road that extends from the city of Rutba in the Anbar province to Syria and Jordan in an effort to stop militants from sneaking in and launching attacks against forces in Rutba, Iraqi Army Col. Ahmed al-Dulaimi said on Sunday.

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Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said protecting Iraq's border with Syria and Jordan is a priority. Military officials said the Iraqi army and the federal police are preparing to launch a major offensive to seal Iraq's border crossing with Syria's Deir ez-Zor province, Al-Masdar News reported.

In late April, the Islamic State launched an attack in Rutba that killed two Iraqi soldiers and injured eight others. Iraqi security forces are expected to begin an offensive to drive out the Islamic State from the Anbar province once it finishes doing so in the city of Mosul, Iraqi News reported.

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Iraq and the U.S.-led international coalition against the Islamic State regularly carry out airstrikes on militant positions in the Anbar province, where the towns of Annah, Qaim and Rawa are held by the Islamist group.

Iraq launched its military offensive to retake western Mosul from the Islamic State, also known as Daesh, ISIL and ISIS, on Feb. 19. The offensive to retake Mosul began Oct. 17, led by Iraqi security forces and aided by the Kurdish Peshmerga, a Shiite-led militia, and the U.S.-led international coalition. Iraq fully captured east Mosul in late January. Some Iraqi officials anticipate the full capture of Mosul will be complete before the end of June.

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