Posted on October 5, 2017
Iraqi forces say they have recaptured the centre of the town of Hawija, one of the last enclaves of so-called Islamic State (IS) in the country.
Hawija, where tens of thousands of civilians live, has been under the militant group’s control since 2014.
Once the surrounding area falls, IS will be left controlling only a stretch of land along the border with Syria.
On Wednesday, the Iraqi army said it had killed 196 IS militants and recaptured 98 villages around Hawija.
Troops, police and paramilitaries “liberated the whole of the centre of Hawija and are continuing their advance”, the operation’s commander, Lieutenant General Abdel Amir Yarallah, said on Thursday morning.
On Tuesday, Iraqi forces captured the Rashad air base south of the city, which was used as a training camp by the militants.
The UN said on Tuesday up to 78,000 civilians were still trapped in Hawija. Iraqi security forces said IS militants were preventing some people from leaving and might have laid explosives around the town.
About 12,500 people had fled since the army’s operation began two weeks ago, according to the UN. It is unclear though how many civilians have escaped in the past couple of days.
Iraq’s army, alongside militia allies and backed by airstrikes from the US-led coalition, has been engaged in a sustained offensive against IS’ self-styled caliphate, retaking the country’s second largest city Mosul in July after a nine-month battle.
IS continues to hold parts of Syria.