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Iraq Launches Operation To Clear IS Fighters From Desert Near Syria

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi erects a national flag in Al-Qaim after the town was retaken by government forces from the extremist group Islamic State earlier this month.

The Iraqi military says it has launched a major operation to clear the western desert near the Syrian border of Islamic State (IS) fighters.

The military announced the operation in a November 23 statement, saying it was being carried out by the Iraqi Army, federal police, and the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).

"The objective behind the operation is to prevent remaining Daesh groups from melting into the desert region and using it as a base for future attacks," Iraqi Army Colonel Salah Kareem was quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying, using an alternative name for the extremist group.

Iraq's Defense Ministry said last week that Iraqi forces backed by a U.S.-led coalition had liberated the border town of Rawa, the last Iraqi town that had been under the control of IS fighters.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said on November 21 that IS had been defeated militarily, but that final victory would be declared only after the routing of the group's fighters in the desert.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP