The Iraqi army on Monday (March 4th) kicked off a large-scale military campaign targeting active al-Qaeda-affiliated cells in Badiat al-Jazeera, an area that extends from al-Qaim and al-Rutbah to the Syrian border, the Iraqi Ministry of Defence said.
The campaign was launched late on Monday, "with aerial cover and many army troops", said Lt. Col. Najm al-Dulaimi, Iraqi army spokesman in Anbar.
Security forces aim "to eliminate some 100 dangerous al-Qaeda elements in the area", he said.
"These terrorist elements were involved in killing scores of citizens, police and army personnel, and in supplying extremist groups in Syria with money and arms," he said.
According to al-Dulaimi, the campaign does not yet have a specified time frame, but is slated to end once its goals are realised.
Meanwhile, in western Iraq, unknown attackers ambushed a group of Iraqi security personnel who were escorting Syrian soldiers back into their country, AFP reported. The Syrians had fled to Iraq to escape an attack by opposition fighters.
At least 48 Syrian soldiers and nine Iraqi guards were killed in the ambush.