ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The Iraqi air force and US-led coalition began a campaign of airstrikes on the Islamic State (IS)-held town of Hawija, according to Iraq’s minister of defense on Saturday.
The airstrikes are targeting the militant group’s areas in western Anbar as well as Hawija, as a ground offensive is set to begin.
Iraqi Defense Minister Erfan al-Hayali said Iraqi troops were working closely with Kurdish Peshmerga and coalition forces to accelerate the operation in Hawija, located in western Kirkuk.
“There are large operations underway ahead of the liberation of Hawija and surrounding areas,” he told the Associated Press.
Hawija is one of the extremist group’s last remaining strongholds in Iraq after losing Mosul and Tal Afar.
According to coalition spokesperson Colonel Ryan Dillon, Iraqi forces will implement the same strategies against IS in Hawija as they did in Mosul and Tal Afar.
“Coming off of their victory in Tal Afar, [Iraqi security forces] will use a lot of the same techniques,” Dillon said.
“Simultaneous attacks proved to be very successful as did operations ahead of time to let civilians know what to do,” the coalition spokesperson added.
Defense Minister Hayali said Iraqi forces began radio broadcasts warning civilians of the upcoming campaign.
On Friday, Iraqi aircrafts dropped thousands of leaflets over the town of Hawija calling on IS militants to surrender ahead of the offensive.
According to the Iraqi Defense Ministry, the notice was dropped over areas in Hawija and Shirqat.
Forces were deployed in Kirkuk last week as preparations to liberate the city are underway.