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Iraq forces push into Daesh bastion Hawija

By AFP - Oct 05,2017 - Last updated at Oct 05,2017

Hawija, Iraq — Iraqi forces pushed into the Daesh stronghold of Hawija on Wednesday and seized some territory, stepping up their assault against one of the extremists' last enclaves in the country.

Government and allied forces backed by a US-led coalition launched an offensive last month to oust Daesh from Hawija, a longtime insurgent bastion.

The town is among the final holdouts from the territory seized by the extremists in 2014 and its recapture would leave only a handful of remote outposts in Daesh hands.

The commander for the offensive, Lieutenant General Abdel Amir Yarallah, said the army, federal police and rapid response force had begun a major operation "to liberate the centre of Hawija and the neighbouring town of Riyadh".
Federal police chief Raed Shakir Jawdat said elite units had entered the town from the northwest amid artillery and missile bombardments of militant positions.

Two western neighbourhoods of the town were taken, and the immediate goal was to take five more, he said.

Besides the security forces, the operation also involves tribal volunteers and the Hashed Al Shaabi paramilitary force, mainly made up of Iran-trained Shiite militia.

The Hashed said its engineers were demining the route into Hawija and that Daesh fighters had retreated to the town centre after "their defences were breached".

Security sources said government forces had retaken areas along the Tikrit-Kirkuk highway south of Hawija that had been under Daesh control for three years.

They had also entered the town of Riyadh southeast of Hawija.

The United Nations said on Tuesday that an estimated 12,500 people had fled the town since the launch of the offensive to retake Hawija and surrounding areas last month.

 

The UN's humanitarian affairs office said the number of people still in the town was unknown but could be as high as 78,000.

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