Hawija (IraqiNews.com) Islamic State members have performed a “farewell prayer” in Hawija, their stronghold in southwestern Kirkuk, sources said, saying the incident comes as militants prepare to flee before anticipated military operations to recapture the town.
A security source told Alsumaria News that a number of foreign members within the group, led by the so-called head of the “Jihadists Shura Council”, performed the prayer at a mosque in central Hawija, before the leader directed them to “blew themselves up during the upcoming battles”.
The leader also admitted the loss of the group’s domains in Hawija, according to the source.
The Iraqi government said late August that Hawija, which IS has held since 2014, was the next target of its operations against the extremist group. The government troops had, so far, recaptured Mosul, IS’s former capital, and the town of Tal Afar, west of Mosul.
On Sunday, Dubai-based Al Arabiya network many of Islamic State’s senior leaders had fled Hawija along with their families. It also said more than 15 U.S. army vehicles deployed at al-Farraj, a region 90 kilometers southeast of Mosul on the borders with Kirkuk, preparing to back up Iraqi forces in their anticipated offensives.
The United Nations had predicted at least 114.000 civilians to flee Hawija as the battle starts.
Last week, Yahia Rasoul, spokesperson of the Iraqi Joint Operations Command, said there were 2000 Islamic State militants inside Hawija.