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Iraq launches major anti-IS operation after killings

04 July 2018, MVT 15:27
EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / A handout picture released by the Iraqi Justice Ministry on June 29, 2018 shows blindfolded and handcuffed jihadists of the Islamic State group who have been condemned to death waiting for their sentences to be executed. Iraq executed a dozen death row jihadists on the order of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, his office said today, in retaliation for the Islamic State group's execution of eight captives. The executions on June 28 came shortly after Abadi ordered the "immediate" implementation of the death sentences of hundreds of convicted jihadists in response to the killings by IS. / AFP PHOTO / Iraq Justice Minister / Handout / XGTY / == RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / HO / Iraq Justice Ministry" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS ==
04 July 2018, MVT 15:27

Iraqi forces launched a major operation against remnants of the Islamic State group on Wednesday following public anger over the jihadists' murder of a group of abducted civilians.

Dubbed "Vengeance for the Martyrs", the operation will see army, special forces, police and Kurdish peshmerga fighters hunting down IS cells in the centre of the country, Iraq's Joint Operations Command (JOC) said in a statement.

It comes after the bodies of eight IS captives were found late last month along a highway north of Baghdad. Some of the abductees had appeared in a video in which IS threatened to execute them unless Baghdad released female prisoners.

The JOC statement said army, federal police, special forces, peshmerga fighters and the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force had launched "a vast operation to clear out the region east of the Diyala-Kirkuk" highway.

The operation was being supported by the Iraqi air force and the US-led coalition that intervened against IS in Iraq and Syria after the jihadists seized control of large parts of both countries in 2014.

One jihadist had already been killed and eight captured, the JOC said, and equipment including vehicles and bombs destroyed.

The operation marked the first time that federal Iraqi forces and the peshmerga were working together since clashes following last year's Kurdish independence referendum.

Iraq declared victory over IS in December after expelling the jihadists from all major towns and cities in a vast offensive.

But the Iraqi military has kept up operations targeting mostly remote desert areas from where jihadists have continued to carry out attacks.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had vowed to avenge the eight civilians killed by IS and ordered the execution of hundreds of convicted jihadists. Thirteen jihadists on death row were executed last week.

Baghdad, Iraq | AFP