ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) - Iraqi forces on Thursday launched the military operation to retake the city of Hawija from the Islamic State (IS), the last stronghold of the Islamic State (IS) in northern Iraq.
The Prime Minister of Iraq Haider al-Abadi announced the offensive in the morning, four days ahead of the Kurdistan Region's referendum on independence scheduled for Sep. 25.
Hawija is one of the oil-rich city in northern Iraq which has been under the control of the jihadist group since mid-2014.
The US-led coalition warplanes will provide aerial support as the Iraqi forces advance to liberate the city, according to Iraqi state TV.
Over 85,000 people are expected to be displaced from Hawija, the United Nations declared last week.
Secretary-General of the Peshmerga Ministry in the Kurdistan Region Jabar Yawar has previously stated that Peshmerga forces are not involved in the Iraqi-led operation as they have not been asked by Baghdad to participate.
The first phase of the campaign includes liberating the eastern part of al-Shirqat town followed by areas west of Kirkuk in the second phase. The third phase would begin with the storming of Hawija, military officials say.
Peshmerga forces are not involved in the current phase.
Editing by G.H. Renaud