Kirkuk (IraqiNews.com) Splits are growing among foreign and local Islamic State members in Kirkuk over whether to surrender or stand up in face of Iraqi troops preparing to retake the group’s strongholds in the province.
A local source told Alsumaria News that commands of the Islamic State’s so-calld “Kirkuk State” and “Diyala State’, stationed in the town of Hawija, have put their fighters on alert anticipating violent twists as controversies exacerbate over whether to surrender or fight the upcoming battle.
According to the source, while foreign elements vote for fighting, local members largely back the surrender option.
The Iraqi Joint Operations Command has recently declared the approach of operations to recapture IS strongholds in Kirkuk, most notably the town of Hawija which the militants held since 2014. Reports had told of reinforcements sent to the the town’s outskirts, but the exact date of the offensive is yet to be determined by the Iraqi command.
On Monday, Jabbar al-maamouri, a leader at the Popular Mobilization forces in Kirkuk, said IS militants families had begun evacuating their residences in Hawija.
The Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights predicts 85.000 civilians to flee the town as military offensives launch.
Iraqi forces had so far recaptured Islamic State’s former capital in Iraq, Mosul, in July, and also retook Tal Afar, the group’s last holdout in Nineveh province, a week ago.