Iraqi forces recaptured the town of Hawija, one of Islamic State’s final strongholds, less than two weeks after the offensive began, the army reported on Thursday.
Lieutenant-General Abdul Ameer Rasheed Yarallah, joint operations commander, said in a statement that the Iraqi Army’s 9th armored division, the federal police, emergency response division and Popular Mobilization Units liberated Hawija.
Reuters news agency reported that fighting remained ongoing in a pocket north-east of the town.
The Iraqis backed by the U.S.-led Coalition began the operation on September 21. Operation Inherent Resolve commander Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II said in a statement: “Our Iraqi partners fought bravely and professionally against a brutal and determined enemy, safeguarding innocent civilians throughout the entire campaign. Thanks to their efforts, Hawijah will return to local governance and security.”
ISIS captured Hawija, located about 55 kilometers (34 miles) south of Kirkuk, in June 2014. CJTF-OIR spokesperson Col. Ryan Dillon said last month that the Coalition believes between 800-1,500 ISIS fighters remain in Hawija, including foreign fighters. Previously the Coalition estimated fewer than 1,000 fighters were in the city.
With the liberation of Hawija, ISIS holds only one stretch of territory in Iraq, the Euphrates river valley area near Qaim.