Iraqi forces capture Hawija, nearby area from ISIS

The capture of Hawija brings them into direct contact with Kurdish Peshmerga fighters who control Kirkuk, a multi-ethnic region claimed by both Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

The offensive on Hawija was carried out by USA -backed Iraqi government troops and Iranian-trained and armed Shi'ite paramilitary groups known as Popular Mobilization.

The commander for the offensive, Lieutenant General Abdel Amir Yarallah, said the army, federal police and rapid response force had begun a major operation "to liberate the centre of Hawija and the neighbouring town of Riyadh".

The Hawija offensive was launched in on September 21 by Iraq's army as part of its drive to dislodge the Islamic State group from the country.

Iraqi forces celebrated after entering the town, posing with upside down IS flags and flashing V-for-victory signs after riding in on tanks and armoured personnel carriers, an AFP photographer reported.

Iraqi forces have captured the town of Hawija and the surrounding area from ISIL, one of their last strongholds in Iraq.

More news: Iowa State falls at home to Texas

The US-led coalition of Iraqi soldiers and militia allies reclaimed the second largest city in the country, Mosul, in July after a nine-month long battle with IS.

As many as 78,000 civilians were trapped in Hawija by the fighting, according to United Nations estimates.

It said humanitarian agencies had set up checkpoints, camps and emergency sites capable of receiving more than 70,000 people who could flee.

Hawija lies between two main routes north of Baghdad; one leading to Kirkuk and the autonomous Kurdish region, the other to Mosul and further on to the Iraqi border with Syria and Turkey. They have since retaken the town of Anna and are expected to target Raqqa and finally al-Qaim.

The Iraqi government and security forces, backed by the US-led coalition, has freed more than 4 million Iraqis and recaptured more than 41,5000 square kilometers of land once held by ISIS, according to the coalition. "Only the outskirts remain to be recaptured".

Now under the control of Islamists in Iraq is only one district - the area along the Western border with Syria.

  • Adam Floyd