Iraqi forces have taken four towns close to Baghdad that overlook supply lines of the Islamic State group, Reuters reported. In doing so, the troops recaptured Jurf al-Skhar, south of Iraq’s capital, near a supply route used by the militant group to funnel soldiers and weapons into the area from the western reaches of the country.
The Iraqi forces were supported by Shiite militias in the campaign around the Himreen mountains Saturday. The mountains are strategically important because they are above supply lines used by the militant group formerly known as ISIS. Securing the range could aid in disrupting the Islamic State’s distribution network across Iraq. The area could also be used as a base to launch future attacks on ISIS due to the fact they are located about 60 miles south of Kirkuk, an oil-rich city controlled by the Kurdish.
After their advances this weekend, the Iraqi forces will secure the area. “We have decided to make slow advances. We hold the ground, set up watch towers, clear the explosives and build sand barriers to prevent the armed men from returning,” army major Ahmed Nu’aman told Reuters. Other attempts to advance near Tikrit, around 72 miles from Kirkuk, were thwarted by roadside bombs and snipers.
The Iraqi move into the Himreen mountains is part of a larger strategy to recapture Jalawla and Saadiya, which fell to the Islamic State over the summer, as Agence France-Presse reported. In the effort to push ISIS farther from Baghdad, Iraqi troops are expected to focus on Amriyat al-Falluja, a town located 25 miles from the capital, Reuters said.
Kurdish forces also gained ground against the Islamic State militants in Iraq Saturday, recapturing the town of Zumar and several villages. Coalition airstrikes were used to set up the attack on the town.
Meanwhile, ISIS failed to advance this weekend in the Syrian city of Kobani, the important border town that has been the site of heavy clashes for about a month.