More Civilians Flee Isis-Held Hawija towards Peshmerga Positions

More Civilians Flee Isis-Held Hawija towards Peshmerga Positions

More civilians fled from the Islamic State-held town of Hawija on Wednesday (October 4) towards positions of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces as Iraqi forces launched a final assault to capture the town, one of two pockets of territory in Iraq still under Islamic State control.

Mainly children and women made the long journey to Kurdish Peshmerga positions at Maktab Khaled district, 20 kilometers south of Kirkuk, after crossing water and mounting trenches dug by Peshmerga to protect their positions.

One Peshmerga officer in the area put the number of displaced people who arrived over the past two days at 1300 people, saying that fleeing families would be transported to camps where they stay until the liberation of their areas.

The Hawija offensive, launched on September 21, is being carried out by U.S.-backed Iraqi government troops and Iranian-trained and armed Shia paramilitary groups known as Popular Mobilization, and aims to dislodge Islamic State from Hawija and surrounding areas where up to 78,000 people could be trapped, according to the United Nations.

Iraqi security officials say the militants are preventing some residents from leaving, while others are afraid of escaping towards government forces because of explosives that might have been laid by Islamic State around the town.

Hawija 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.