Iraqi military captures Hawija from Islamic State

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"The army, the Federal Police, the Emergency Response division and rapid response (Popular Mobilization Forces) stormed Hawija", said a statement from the joint operations commander, Lieutenant-General Abdul Ameer Rasheed Yarallah.

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

Federal police chief Raed Shakir Jawdat said in a statement that the latest "phase of the operation to liberate Hawija" had begun with artillery and missile fire on jihadist positions.

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.

An Iraqi pilot can be seen waving to troops as he flies over the Harmin Mountains west of Hawija, as fighting against Islamic State forces there continued on October 2.

Iraq launched an offensive on September 21 to dislodge Islamic State from the area north of Baghdad where up to 78,000 people were estimated to be trapped, according to the United Nations.

Hawija, located 55 kilometers southwest of the city of Kirkuk, is considered one of the main ISIS strongholds in Iraq. The UN says the number of people still in the town was unknown but could be as high as 78,000.

This post was syndicated from The Guardian Nigeria Newspaper - Nigeria and World News.

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