Iraq Advances against ISIL on Three Fronts

Iraq Advances against ISIL on Three Fronts

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Iraqi forces advanced on three fronts against ISIL Sunday, flushing out pockets of resistance in and around Beiji and closing in on Ramadi and Hawijah, officers said.

Iraqi security and allied paramilitary forces last week launched a broad offensive on Baiji, about 200 kilometers north of Baghdad.

The city and nearby refinery – the country’s largest – have been one of the worst flashpoints since ISIL launched a sweeping offensive across Iraq’s Sunni heartland in June 2014.

Anti-ISIL forces, including thousands from the Popular Mobilization (Al-Hashd al-Shaabi) force, have conquered most of Baiji and its surroundings.

“They are still combing some neighborhoods of Baiji, including Tamim to the west and the market area in the center,” a police brigadier general said, AFP reported.

“There are still a few ISIL members in there,” he said.

“The security forces and Hashd forces took up positions to take control of some neighborhoods in Baiji, searching for bombs and booby-trapped houses,” an army major general said.

He described the latest advance in the Baiji area as “the biggest victory since June 10, 2014,” when ISIL made massive territorial gains with a lightning offensive that saw Iraq’s federal forces collapse completely.

Since they launched a counterattack last year, government and allied forces have retaken all areas south of Baghdad and others north of the capital, including the city of Tikrit. The government forces pushed past Baiji on the main road leading north to Mosul, cutting off ISIL fighters holding the city of Hawijah, east of the Tigris River.

Army and police, backed by hundreds of Sunni tribal fighters incorporated into the Popular Mobilization forces, began an operation Sunday aimed at surrounding Hawijah.

“The operation started in two areas, one west of Kirkuk around Al-Fatha and the other south of Kirkuk near Allas oil field,” a major general said.

The Kurdish peshmerga forces were not directly involved in this operation but they have made progress of their own in recent weeks, pushing southwest from Kirkuk, which they control.

A security coordination meeting between federal and Kurdish forces and politicians was held in Kirkuk Sunday, Governor Najmeddin Karim said.

Iraqi forces also continued to tighten the noose around Ramadi, the capital of the western province of Anbar, which ISIL captured in May this year.

Iraq’s Counterterrorism Service is leading operations around Ramadi, with backing from the security forces, Sunni tribesmen opposed to ISIL and US-led coalition airstrikes.

“Albu Farraj neighborhood is under full control now. The city of Ramadi is completely isolated from the northern side now,” said Maj. Gen. Ismail Mahalawi, from Anbar Operations Command.

A coalition spokesman said last week the number of ISIL fighters still inside Ramadi was estimated at 600 to 1,000.

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