Thousands of Iraqi Security Forces members, including elements from: Iraqi Army, “Qwat al-Khasah” Special Forces Brigade, Iraqi Air Force, Emergency Response Divisions, Federal Police, Popular Mobilization Units, and Iraqi Security and Intelligence agencies, cleared over 4,800 square kilometers in search of ISIS hideouts during Operation “Heroes of Iraq III” in Salah ad-Din Province, Iraq, June 22-24. The ground clearance mission covered over eight times the amount of terrain cleared during the previous “Heroes” operation, in early June.
The ISF main operation opened early Monday morning with lethal strikes from French Coalition aircraft on suspected terrorist locations and firing positions. Three French Rafale fighters, supported by German in-flight refueling, carried out a strike using laser-guided and GPS-guided AASM (Armement Air-Sol Modulaire) bombs, totally destroying several buildings used by Daesh between Samarra and Kirkuk. As the mission progressed, the ISF captured and destroyed ISIS weapons and vehicles, and disabled 76 improvised explosive devices, preventing their use in future terrorist attacks against Iraqi citizens.
In a concurrent mission in the nearby Makhmour / Qarachokh mountains, members of Iraq’s Counter Terrorism Service, with support from CJTF-OIR air power, pursued and destroyed ISIS fighters to prevent their interference with the “Heroes” operation. ISF units continued on to destroy 11 tunnels and 29 operating sites, thereby denying ISIS criminals the means to freely move equipment and fighters. Sadly, in their pursuit of terrorists, two brave Iraqi heroes were killed during the operation, and 10 more wounded. By June 24, the ISF had cleared 89 villages of terrorist cells and seized six explosive-manufacturing sites, degrading the criminals’ ability to target innocent Iraqi citizens.
Heroes of Iraq III was the latest large scale ISF operation that compliments near-daily missions by the ISF enterprise to defeat the evils of terrorism in their country. HOI III was enabled by Coalition intelligence, aviation, and planning support. The Coalition conducted more than 20 air-strikes in support of Iraqi ground forces during the operation, using jet fighters from Iraq, France, U.K., and U.S. The ISF continue to demonstrate their anti-Daesh combat capability in effective operations, frequently without Coalition involvement, relying on Iraqi intelligence and the Iraqi Air Force.