Samarra (Iraq): Thousands of Iraqi security personnel launched an operation on Tuesday aimed at retaking areas north of Baghdad from the Islamic State jihadist group, officials said.
Counter-terrorism forces, soldiers, police and allied paramilitaries are taking part in the operation, which is backed by artillery and both Iraqi and US-led coalition aircraft, the Joint Operations Command announced.
An Iraqi army colonel said that more than 7,000 security personnel would take part in the operation, which the operations command said aims to retake areas west of the city of Samarra.
The targeted areas, which the colonel said extend from the city of Samarra up to the town of Baiji, are a corridor linking IS-held territory around the northern city of Mosul, the jihadists' main hub in Iraq, with areas farther south.
IS launched a devastating offensive in June 2014 that overran swathes of territory north and west of Baghdad, but Iraqi forces backed by US-led strikes have succeeded in regaining significant ground from the jihadists.
Iraqi forces retook Ramadi, the capital of Anbar, from the jihadists at the end of last year, and are now turning their attention to areas to the north through which IS has moved supplies and fighters to the province.