ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi airplanes on Friday dropped thousands of leaflets over the Hawija district calling on the Islamic State (IS) to surrender ahead of an offensive against the militant group.
The Iraqi Defense Ministry said the leaflets warned the “terrorist gangs” their defeat was approaching, and they should surrender.
“There is nowhere to hide, Da’esh,” the front side of the leaflet reads, using the Arabic acronym for IS.
“We know where you are,” the back side of the flyer warns the militants.
According to the Defense Ministry, the notice was dropped over areas in Hawija and Shirqat, located in the west of Kirkuk Province.
Hawija is one of the militant group’s last remaining strongholds in Iraq after losing Mosul and Tal Afar.
Forces were deployed in Kirkuk last week as preparations to liberate the city are underway, the Defense Ministry had previously said in an official statement.
“The leaflet drop means that the offensive will start soon,” an Iraqi official told the Anadolu agency.
The official also said the Iraqi army had taken all of the necessary measures to begin the operation against IS in Hawija and Shirqat.
“The offensive will take place simultaneously with retaking the areas which are still controlled by [IS],” the official added. “As happened in Tal Afar, the Iraqi forces will end the battle quickly.”
Kurdish officials in Kirkuk have been calling on Baghdad to prioritize the liberation of Hawija, citing security threats to civilians in the rest of the province.
As Kurdistan’s independence referendum approaches, the people of Kirkuk will be anticipating their opportunity to decide whether they want to remain part of Iraq or join the Kurdistan Region.
Although Kurds make up a majority of the population, Kirkuk is a diverse area made up of different ethnic and religious groups including Turkmen, Arabs, and Christians.