BAGHDAD, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- Iraq on Thursday started military operations to retake the last stronghold of the Islamic State (IS) in its western Anbar Province near the Syrian border.

The Iraqi Army, paramilitary Hashd al-Shaabi Brigade, tribal fighters from the Sunni sect, and provincial police began an offensive to free the cities of Rawa and al-Qaim as well as the surrounding areas and secure the regions bordering Syria, Lt. Gen. Abdul Amir Yarallah, commander of the Western Anbar Operations, said in a statement.

The Iraqi forces are marching "to eliminate the last redoubt of terrorism in Iraq by liberating the cities of al-Qaim and Rawa, as well as the villages and towns in western Anbar," a statement by the office of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said.

The IS militants seized large swaths of territory in Iraq in 2014. After three years of battle, the Iraqi forces have retaken most of the occupied areas from the terrorist group, including the country's second largest city Mosul.