Kirkuk (Iraqinews.com) – At least 45 civilians and security personnel were killed in attacks launched by Islamic State militants on Hawija city, Kirkuk, over the past two months, a senior security official said on Tuesday.
“The Iraqi army and police, on the other hand, killed 288 Jihadists and arrested 55 others during the same period,” Middle East Online quoted the official as saying.
Meanwhile, a security expert warned that, “Islamic State militants are still hiding in tunnels at agricultural areas on the outskirts of Hawija.”
“Such IS cells are posing a major threat to the entire region,” expert Sarmad Al-Bayati said, charging IS militants with kidnapping and murdering civilians to prevent the displaced people from returning to their home regions.
Another well-placed officer in the Iraqi Army said that the military operation to liberate Hawija has just focused on the main roads and districts of the city, pointing out that after the recapture of the city from Islamic State, some Jihadists surrendered to the Iraqi troops, while others fled to Hamrin Mountains and surrounding areas.
“The fleeing Jihadists have already killed many relatives of Iraqi soldiers over the past period,” the officer said.
In October, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared that Iraqi troops recaptured Hawija, a main town held by Islamic State in the country.
The town fell to IS in June 2014, when the militant group seized control of much of northern and western Iraq and proclaimed the creation of a self-styled “caliphate”.
There, Islamic State’s reign forced thousands to flee to refugee camps, while hundreds had been executed by the group for attempting to escape the area or contacting security forces.
Operations were launched in late September to liberate Hawija, southwest of Kirkuk, before Abadi announced freeing the town in October.