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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Iraq security forces advance in ISIL-held town of Hawija 

Prime minister Haider Al Abadi on Friday announced the second phase of the operation to retake the northern town, vowing to 'liberate every inch of this land from ISIL'

Fighters from the mainly Shiite Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), which are fighting ISIL on behalf of the Iraqi government, run and cover themselves from a bomb attack outside of Hawija on September 30, 2017. Reuters
Fighters from the mainly Shiite Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), which are fighting ISIL on behalf of the Iraqi government, run and cover themselves from a bomb attack outside of Hawija on September 30, 2017. Reuters

Iraqi forces made advances on Saturday in the northern town of Hawija, one of two enclaves in the country still held by ISIL extremists.

Iraqi prime minister Haider Al Abadi on Friday announced the second phase of the operation to retake Hawija, stating that, as promised, "We will liberate every inch of this land. We are on the verge of a new victory to liberate the residents of these areas from those criminals".

The Iraqi military said the objective was to recapture the towns of Rashad, Riyadh, Al Abbasi and other satellite villages. All are mainly Sunni Arab areas long-held by the extremists, but which were bypassed by government forces in their push north towards Mosul last year. That push culminated in ISIL's defeat in July in their most emblematic stronghold.

The operation's commander, Lieutenant General Abdel Amir Yarallah announced late on Friday that troops had taken Al Abbasi and raised the Iraqi flag there.

Hawija is a Sunni-dominated city in south-west Kirkuk province, which has been under ISIL rule since 2014. The city of Kirkuk lies approximately 66 kilometres north-east of Hawija.

Not only is Kirkuk province facing a security threat from ISIL, but it is also one of the territories claimed by both the central Iraqi government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government.

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