Hawija (IraqiNews.com) The Islamic State has appointed a Syrian national as its new commander in the stronghold town of Hawija, southwest of Kirkuk, a paramilitary official said.
Ahmed Khourshid, a spokesperson of the pro-government Popular Mobilization Forces in Hawija, told Alsumaria News that the new commander is also in charge of the group’s commands of Salahuddin and Diyala provinces which had been relocated to Hawija.
Khourshid said the new commander, whom he did not name, initiated his stint with a series of executions of civilians who attempted to flee to neighboring provinces.
“Hawija has become an important command center for the group, and hosts up to 3000 terrorists, making it difficult to enter the town,” he stated.
“That terrorist is one of the group’s most brutal towards civilians,” Khourshid revealed, adding that the group withholds nearly 250.000 civilians in Hawija and surrounding areas of al-Riyadh, al-Zab, al-Abbasi and al-Rashad.
Hawija and other neighboring areas in southwest Kirkuk have been under Islamic State control since 2014, when the group emerged to proclaim an Islamic “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria. The group executed dozens of civilians and security members there, forcing thousands to flee homes.
Local tribal leaders and politicians from Kirkuk have mounted pressure on the Iraqi government to hasten with invading Hawija, suggesting that its people were experiencing a humanitarian crisis under the group’s rule. The Iraqi government is currently employing the largest portion of its military effort in Mosul, IS’s capital in Iraq where the group is reportedly cornered in a few square kilometers.