Iraqi security forces on Thursday launched an offensive in the desert region bordering Syria in a final bid to push the Islamic State group out of the country, Reuters reported.

Army troops and Shiite fighters from the Popular Mobilisation Forces are part of the operation, the military said. “The objective behind the operation is to prevent remaining Daesh groups from melting into the desert region and using it as a base for future attacks,” Army Colonel Salah Kareem said, referring to the Islamic State group by its Arabic name.

The Popular Mobilisation Forces released live footage of bulldozers clearing the way in the Saleheddin province for heavy armour to advance into the desert, AFP reported. The militia said its fighters had already regained control of a dozen villages, defused a car bomb and a number of booby-traps planted by the terrorists.

The region, marked with dry valleys, oases and steppes, has been a hotbed of insurgency since former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was ousted by the United States in 2003, Hisham al-Hashemi, an Iraqi expert on the Islamic State group, told AFP last week.