Iraqi government forces launched a major offensive to retake Anbar province from Islamic State (IS) militants on Monday, seizing two villages in the area so far, according to officials.
The operation began at dawn and includes troops and police as well as Shia militias and allied Sunni tribes, Joint Operations Command spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool said in a televised statement, according to the Associated Press.
Two villages in the Euphrates valley, east of the the provincial capital of Ramadi, have been seized so far, according to military and political sources quoted by Agence France-Presse.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the offensive would "take revenge on IS criminals on the battlefield," in a statement released on Monday.
"[IS's] cowardly crimes targeting civilians will increase our determination to pursue and expel them from the last inch of the land of Iraq," he added.
Abadi's official Twitter account later posted pictures described as showing the PM overseeing the advance from a joint operations center.
IS overran much of Anbar, including Fallujah, in early 2014. It went on to seize Ramadi in May this year, inflicting an embarrassing defeat on Iraqi forces, that had been slowly regaining ground from the extremists.
There have been repeated government attempts to retake the province, including an assault announced after the fall of Ramadi that appeared to have made very little progress. Recent operations seem to have concentrated on cutting off supply routes to both the provincial capital and Fallujah.
Monday's offensive comes the day after suicide attacks and car bombs reportedly killed 35 people and injured more than 100 in majority Shia neighborhoods of Baghdad.
Security and medical sources cited by Reuters said 19 people died in twin blasts at a marketplace in Shaab district. Another nine people died in a car bomb blast in Bunouk, five others in Kadhimiya, and two more in western Iskan.
No group has yet claimed responsibility, but IS fighters launch similar attacks on the capital on a near daily basis, many of which originate in Anbar.
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