Iraqi forces attack Islamic State in Syria border area

Iraqi forces are seen outside the town of Akashat northwest of the al Anbar province

Iraqi forces are seen outside the town of Akashat northwest of the al Anbar province

An Iraqi military commander says troops have launched a multi-pronged operation to capture a town near the Syrian border from the Islamic State group.

Iranian-backed forces fighting with Syrian President Bashar Assad's army simultaneously announced the start of an offensive to reach the same border area from the opposite side.

Imed Meshaal, mayor of Rutba, a desert town further south recaptured from ISIL a year ago, said the militants had turned the area into a major hub for arms caches, training camps and command centres.

"The attack on Akashat meant to pave the way for the recapture of urban centres in the Euphrates valley, including al-Qaim border post", it said.

Joint Military Command Brigadier General Yahya Rasool said the USA will provide air support for the Iraqi forces during the offensive, south of the Euphrates River.

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The Hashed Al Shaabi, also known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces, is a paramilitary force comprised mainly of Iran-trained Shiite militias but also includes some fighters recruited from Sunni tribes.

Pro-Baghdad forces have advanced towards the IS-held town of al-Akashat, which lies close to the Syria border.

Securing Al Bukamal is important for Iran's allies as the two other main crossings into Syria, to the north and to the south, are under the control of forces allied with the US. The Shia-led Iraqi government in Baghdad has good relations with both Tehran and Washington.

In July, Iraq retook control of Mosul, Islamic State's key stronghold in the north, after a campaign of almost nine months.

Islamic State still controls Hawija in Iraq's oil-rich province of Kirkuk and western areas in the country's largest province of Anbar.

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