Kirkuk (Iraqinews.com) – The Islamic State (IS) group is still active in Hawija, making it necessary to launch a large pre-emptive military operation to prevent its militants from seizing control of this vital city again, a paramilitary commander was quoted as saying Tuesday.
In statements to Alghad Press, Ali al-Husseini, the commander of al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces) northern axis, said, “IS militants are still active and take mountainous areas near Hawija on the border between Salahuddin and Kirkuk as shelters.”
Husseini further estimated the number of IS militants in Hawija at dozens, however, he warned that they “pose a serious challenge as they continuously move and target security men on a daily basis.”
Therefore, Husseini called for “launching a wide-scale pre-emptive operation, based on intelligence reports, to track down and eliminate IS militants in these areas.”
But Husseini acknowledged that it is difficult now “to launch this operation due to bad weather and the rugged area.”
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 had fallen 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.