Iraq claims town near Syria border from IS

Iraqi forces have begun a major offensive to retake the western town of Akashat from Islamic State

The Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, said the attack took place in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour, where the USA -backed militia is fighting the Islamic State as an Iran-backed force mounts a rival offensive.

The towns in the border region with Syria and Hawija, a northern province close to the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, are the only urban centres still under Daesh control in Iraq.

The Iraqi army, paramilitary Hashd Shaabi forces and the border guards on Saturday completely recaptured Akashat and reopened a nearby strategic road, Lt. Gen. Abdul Amir Yarallah from the Iraqi Joint Operations Command (JOC) said in a brief statement.

"Iraqi forces are progressing towards the specified aim of cutting routes leading to Akashat and controlling the worldwide borders with Syria in order to prevent terrorists' infiltration", he said.

The offensive seeks to free militant-held towns in the Euphrates river valley including Al Qaim, which along with Rawa and Anna downstream forms one of just two enclaves still held by ISIL in Iraq.

In recent months, Islamic State has suffered a series of military setbacks and lost ground in Iraq and Syria.

Akashat lies at the crossroads between northwest Rutba and southeast of Qaim, 310 kilometers west of Ramadi, which seized by extremists in early 2014.

Saturday's attack is seen as a prelude for an expected Iraqi campaign aimed at expelling Islamic State from the last chunks of territory the militant group still controls along the border with war-torn Syria.

In August, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over the radical group in Tel Afar, west of Mosul.



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