Iraqi forces launch anti-IS operation north of Baghdad

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's military said Saturday its troops in partnership with security agencies and paramilitary forces launched the second phase of an operation aimed at clearing remnants of the Islamic State group from north of Baghdad and surrounding areas.

This is the second phase of the operation dubbed "Will to Victory," which started two weeks earlier and targeted the area along the border with Syria. The military said the new target area is north of Baghdad and in the Diyala, Salahuddin and Anbar provinces.

Although Iraq declared victory against IS in July 2017, the extremists have turned into an insurgency and continue to carry out deadly attacks in the country.

The military said Iraqi troops, Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces, the federal police and others are taking part in the operation supported by the Iraqis and the U.S-led international coalition.

On Saturday, Iraq's Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi visited the operation room alongside the deputy head of the PMF, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Earlier this month, the Iraqi government moved to place the Iranian-backed militias under the command of the armed forces. The move was believed to be an attempt to curb the powerful militias, particularly amid rising tension between Iran and the U.S., the power brokers in Iraq.

The mainly Shiite PMF have been an effective force against IS and are a significant political force, with government ministers and 48 seats in the 329-member parliament.

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