Preparations to liberate Hawija from IS underway: Defense Ministry

Iraqi forces were redeployed in Kirkuk as preparations to liberate the city of Hawija from the Islamic State (IS) are underway.

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi forces were redeployed in Kirkuk as preparations to liberate the city of Hawija from the Islamic State (IS) are underway, the Iraqi Defense Ministry said on Saturday.

In an official statement, the Defense Ministry said additional forces were sent from Baghdad to prepare for the upcoming campaign in Hawija, west of Kirkuk.

Federal police captain Jabbar Hassan told the Anadolu Agency Iraqi troops had arrived in the al-Qayyarah district in southern Mosul after the conclusion of the two-week campaign in Tal Afar.

According to Army First Lieutenant Fayeq Numan al-Salim, most of the forces who were involved in the Tal Afar operation will participate in the liberation of Hawija.

“Preparations for the campaign began several weeks ago, but they were stepped up following the recent recapture of Tal Afar,” Salim said, adding victory would be “speedy.”

Kurdish officials in the province of Kirkuk have been calling on Baghdad to prioritize the liberation of Hawija, one of IS’ key strongholds in Iraq.

In July, Kirkuk Governor Najmaldin Karim warned that the town of Hawija had become a harbor for IS extremists.

“Hawija has become a haven for terrorists,” Karim told Kurdistan 24. “The presence of [IS] in Hawija poses a serious security threat to the surrounding cities.”

According to Governor Karim, Baghdad has often ignored security warnings from Kurdish officials in 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 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.

The province is also one of the disputed territories between the Federal Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government.

President of the Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani has also called for continued cooperation between Baghdad and Erbil in the fight against IS. 

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over the jihadist group in Tal Afar, west of Mosul, on Sep. 1 just two weeks after the operation began.


Editing by G.H. Renaud