In the wake of operation Vengeance for the Martyrs, the security situation in and around the Kirkuk province city of al-Hawija has improved, the local administration said Thursday (July 19th).
The operation, which has been under way for more than two weeks, is targeting "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) remnants, who have increased their activity recently in rugged areas between Kirkuk, Salaheddine and Diyala.
"The security situation throughout our city has improved considerably compared to its state a few months ago," al-Hawija district council member Ammar al-Hamdani told Diyaruna.
"The ISIS remnants were using the hills and valleys to hide and launch surprise attacks on remote villages, but that danger is now over, thanks to the ongoing security campaign in the south of the city," he said.
The operation has secured vast areas where ISIS elements would move from one place to another in small groups, taking advantage of the complex terrain and poor security coverage.
As part of operation Vengeance for the Martyrs, federal police forces responsible for securing areas in the west and south of Kirkuk province on Thursday searched several villages in al-Hawija, al-Hamdani said.
In the areas they searched, including al-Babujan, al-Uzeiri, al-Barghliya, Arbida and Safira, they found ISIS hideouts in caves and valleys that contained equipment, supplies and communication devices, he said.
During the sweep of the villages of Ali Saray and al-Iftikharat southwest of Kirkuk, the police arrested three extremists, one of whom has been accused of gathering information about local residents and planning abductions for ISIS.
Improved security encourages returns
The improved security situation has encouraged residents who had been displaced from the centre of al-Hawija and the roughly 200 villages in the vicinity of the city to return to their homes, al-Hamdani said.
"This month, hundreds of families have returned, and last week we received requests for the return of more than 1,500 displaced persons," he said, adding that these people are expected to be able to return to their homes soon.
The Federal Police have been involved in facilitating the return of local residents who sought temporary refuge in displacement camps, al-Hamdani said.
"The returning families will be the best support to the security forces through their direct support for efforts to protect their areas from terrorist elements and to consolidate security there," he added.
The level of public services in the city is also improving, he said, noting that the local council has "a strong partnership with several international organisations that are working effectively to upgrade the infrastructure".
This is being done with the hands-on assistance of al-Hawija residents, he said.
"We have recently provided about 300 employment opportunities for people to work in construction projects, and are working to increase the number of such jobs and to achieve the desired development in all vital areas," he said.