Iraqi Forces Advance in Offensive to Retake Isis-Held Hawija

Iraqi Forces Advance in Offensive to Retake Isis-Held Hawija

 Iraqi forces advanced on Friday (September 22) on the second day of an offensive to dislodge Islamic State (ISIS) from Hawija, an area located west of the oil city of Kirkuk.

The Iraqi forces, deployed north and west of Hawija district, pushed southward along the Tigris River, after clearing the first lines of defense by midday on Thursday (September 21).

A total of 23 villages were captured from Islamic State, said the operation's commander, Lieutenant General Abdul Ameer Yarallah, state TV reported.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the offensive four days before a referendum on Kurdish independence due to be held in northern Iraq, including Kirkuk.

Hawija, located some 50 km southwest of the city of Kirkuk, became an ISIS stronghold when militants swept across northern and western Iraq in 2014. Hawija district remains one of the group’s two remaining militant strongholds in the country.