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IS holdouts

Iraq launches operation to clear last IS holdouts from desert

BAGHDAD: Iraqi forces announced the launch of a major operation on Thursday to flush remaining Islamic State group fighters out of the western desert near the border with Syria. The arid, sparsely populated wastelands between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers are the last refuge of the jihadists in Iraq after troops and paramilitaries ousted them from both valleys and all urban areas. "The Iraqi army, the federal police and the Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation paramilitary units) this morning began clearing the…