World

Iraq begins final assault to capture Hawija from Islamic State

Iraq begins final assault to capture Hawija from Islamic State

Iraqi forces backed by USA airstrikes began an assault on the Islamic State in western Anbar province Tuesday, breaching one of the last two militant strongholds in Iraq where the group's elusive leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is thought to be possibly hiding.

This week, Iraqi troops seized Akashat region, located between borders with Syria and Jordan.

In announcing the start of the operation, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said it was "in fulfilment of our pledge to our people to liberate all Iraqi territory and to cleanse it from the terrorist Daesh [Islamic State] gangs".

A spokesman for the US -led coalition confirmed in a separate Twitter post that the Iraqi forces were being backed by American airstrikes.

The United Nations Security Council resolution passed today aimed at holding the Islamic State armed group accountable for war crimes and human rights abuses in Iraq falls short of what is needed and could fuel further abuses, warned Amnesty International.

The Peshmerga hold the frontlines with the Hawija district from the eastern side, near Kirkuk, but are not taking part in the offensive, he said.

Hawija, which lies 50km (30 miles) to the west of the city of Kirkuk, has been a bastion of Sunni Arab insurgents since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.




It is one of the last two pockets of Isis-held territory in Iraq.

Iraqi Federal Police will be deployed to Shirqat, while Counter-Terrorism Service and the Rapid Response Forces will fight ISIS in Hawija.

"They have already suffered horribly under ISIS rule.food, water and medicine are running out, with many children reportedly weak and malnourished", the organisation said. "Schools and hospitals have shut down", said Aram Shakaram, the charity's deputy country director.

Mr Shakaram said it was imperative that Iraqi and coalition forces opened up safe escape routes for civilians, and called on them to avoid the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

Dillon also tweeted on Wednesday that the Iraqi Air Force had dropped leaflets in the area, urging IS to surrender and providing safety instructions for civilians.

Abadi says Monday's referendum is against the constitution and has called on the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government to cancel it.


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