Iraqi ground forces, backed by coalition warplanes, have achieved rapid progress in the operation to retake al-Hawija and its surrounding areas from the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS), a local official said.
Iraqi troops have so far succeeded in liberating the eastern side of al-Shirqat in Salaheddine province, al-Shirqat governor Ali Dawdah told Diyaruna on Monday (September 25th).
"Our military forces, with the support of coalition warplanes, have achieved a great victory," he said. "The centre of the [east] side of al-Shirqat, and all 42 villages on that side have been recovered."
"Al-Shirqat is now a fully liberated city."
Security forces continued to advance beyond the city’s administrative limits into al-Zab, west of al-Hawija district and north of the city of Baiji, he said.
Within that area, about 10 villages have been liberated, including al-Naml, Sbeih, al-Rawyeen, al-Halawat, al-Talia and al-Mashak, Dawdah said.
Security forces have not encountered any significant difficulty as they progressed in the east side of the city, he noted.
Clean military operation
After the ISIS front lines near the village of Kanous were destroyed, Dawdah said, "the liberation operation was moving from one village to another very quickly".
"Since those defences were overpassed, the terrorists have conducted only two suicide attacks, one of them with a car bomb and the other with an explosive belt, which have not had any effect on the units’ advance," he added.
The liberated territory is almost free of mines and explosives that could impede progress, Dawdah said, adding that airstrikes targeting ISIS strongholds also have played a key role in the victory.
ISIS has lost at least 160 fighters, most of whom are still buried under the rubble of the buildings and houses where they were holed up, he said.
The push to liberate eastern al-Shirqat has been a clean military operation and no losses have been registered among the military or the roughly 1,000 local families, he added.
During the operation, 10 Iraqi ISIS fighters surrendered to the military forces, Dawdah said.
"The security situation is currently stable in the [east] side," he said.
"The military forces have full control over the liberated areas and are conducting searches for militants still in hiding and weapons, ammunition and improvised explosive device stores," he added.