Baghdad (IraqiNews.com) Iraqi joint troops have managed to recapture twenty villages from Islamic State’s grip, in Hawija, Kirkuk, concluding the first phase of the offensive, military said.
“Federal Police, Rapid Response, army brigades and al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces), liberated twenty villages in Hawija,” Lt. Gen. Abdul Amir Yarallah, commander of Hawija Operations, said on Thursday.
According to Yarallah, Iraqi troops managed to conclude the first phase of operations, which started early on the day.
During a joint press conference with Ryan Dillon, spokesman of the U.S.-led coalition against IS, on Thursday, Brig. Gen. Yahia Rasoul, spokesman of the Iraqi Joint Operations Command said the number of Islamic State members in Hawija falls between 800 and 1500.
Earlier on the day, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi and Lt.Gen. Abdul Amir Yarallah, deputy commander of the Joint Operations Command announced launch of first phase of operations to liberate Hawija and western Shirqat. Several villages in Shirqat have been retaken.
Hawija and other neighboring regions, west of Kirkuk, have been held by IS since mid-2014, when the group emerged to proclaim an Islamic “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria.
Other offensives were launched earlier this week at the group’s havens in western Anbar’s borders with Syria.