Iraqi forces retake more IS-held areas amid offensive to liberate Hawijah

Source:Xinhua Published: 2017/9/24 6:34:14

The Iraqi forces on Saturday retook control of a town and 25 villages from Islamic State (IS) militants as part of an offensive to liberate Hawijah and surrounding areas, the Iraqi military said.

The commandos of the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) forces recaptured al-Khanouga mountain range, which commands the main road leading to the IS-held town of Hawijah, some 230 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, Abdul Amir Yarallah, from the Iraqi Joint Operations Command (JOC), said in a statement.

The CTS troops also freed two villages near the Tigris River, it said.

The federal police and the elite interior ministry forces, known as Rapid Response, and four paramilitary Hashd Shaabi brigades, freed 23 villages and the small town of al-Zab from IS militants in west of Hawijah, while seizing the north bank of the adjacent river of Zab, according to the statement.

Early Thursday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the launch of a new offensive to drive out IS militants from Hawijah in the western part of Iraq's oil-rich Kirkuk Province.

Also on Thursday, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of the Hashd Shaabi brigades, said the offensive will be conducted in two phases: the first is to retake control of vast areas in east of the town of Shirqat, some 280 km north of Baghdad; the second is to dislodge IS militants from their stronghold in Hawijah.

The operation to free Hawijah came as tensions are running high between the central government in Baghdad and the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan after the local Kurdish government insisted on holding a controversial independence referendum on Monday.

The Iraqi government has warned that it is ready to use force if the referendum leads to violence.

Iraq's neighboring countries Turkey, Iran and Syria, have also strongly opposed the referendum, fearing it would threaten their territorial integrity as there is a huge Kurdish population live in these countries.

Posted in: MID-EAST

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