ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi Forces on Thursday announced they had successfully regained control of the center of the city of Hawija, southwest of Kirkuk.
The operation to retake Hawija was launched on Sep. 21, exactly two weeks ago, with the participation of the Iraqi federal police, Rapid Response team, and the Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militia also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). The US-led coalition has been providing aerial support.
Hawija is 55 kilometers (30 miles) west of Kirkuk. The Sunni-majority town has been under the control of the jihadist group since June 2014.
“The Iraqi federal police, Rapid Response team, and the Hashd al-Shaabi have been able to regain control of the Hawija central district," the Commander of the Hawija campaign, Major General Abdulamir Rasheed Yarallah, said in a statement.
With the liberation of the Hawija city center, Iraqi Forces are closer to ousting the Islamic State (IS) militants from the town, which the militant group seized in mid-2014.
The Iraqi Forces are targeting the neighboring town of Riyadh, as well as the surrounding areas of Hilla, Sadiya, and others. Yarallah said Iraqi forces were progressing steadily.
Hawija is the last IS stronghold in northern Iraq after the jihadist group collapsed in Mosul earlier this summer.
Iraqi forces stormed Hawija on Sunday and announced the liberation of the Makhoul mountain range.
The UN estimates that more than 70,000 civilians remain trapped in the city.
The acceptance of families fleeing Hawija highlights the ongoing cooperation between Peshmerga and Iraqi forces amid increasing tensions between Erbil and Baghdad following the landmark Sep. 25 independence referendum.
Nearby Kirkuk is home to over half a million internally displaced persons (IDPs), many of which fled from neighboring Hawija.