Iraq’s Prime minister says its army has retaken Hawija, the principal town in one of the remaining two enclaves of the so-called Islamic State (IS) in the country.
Haider al-Abadi told journalists that Hawija has been “liberated” as part of an operation launched a few weeks ago.
Some villages east of the town are believed to nonetheless be under IS control.
Once they fall, IS will be left with at best just a stretch of the Euphrates river valley round al-Qaim, in the western desert near the border with Syria.
The jihadist group still controls large areas of the valley inside the neighboring Syrian province of Deir-al-zour, however, it’s under heavy pressure there from Syrian pro-government giants and a US-sponsored alliance of Kurdish and Arab opponents.
Hawija, which lies 215km (one hundred thirty-five miles) north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, has been a bastion of Sunni Arab insurgents after the us-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The town fell to IS in June 2014, while the jihadist organization seized control of an awful lot of northern and western Iraq and proclaimed the creation of a “caliphate”.
However, it was surrounded and cut off from another IS-held territory more than a year in the past when government forces advanced north closer to the second city of Mosul.
The offensive on Hawija commenced on 21st September and has involved navy, police and special forces officials, as well as the PMS.
With the help of the coalition air strikes and navy advisers, they recaptured the district of Shirqat on the second day and then moved steadily south-eastwards.
On Wednesday, the operation’s commander announced that troops had begun a prime operation to “free up” hawija itself. they quickly breached jihadist defenses inside the north-western outskirts and stormed the city center as night fell.