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Iraqi forces advance against Daesh on three fronts

By AFP - Oct 18,2015 - Last updated at Oct 18,2015

Iraqi Shiite fighters from the Popular Mobilisation units look at the damage on Saturday, after Iraqi security and allied paramilitary forces recaptured a refinery complex from the Daesh group near the northern Iraqi town of Baiji (AFP photo)

BAIJI, Iraq — Iraqi forces advanced on three fronts against the Daesh terror group Sunday, flushing out pockets of resistance in and around Baiji, 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 kilometres north of Baghdad.

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

Anti-Daesh forces, including thousands from the Popular Mobilisation (Hashed Al Shaabi) force that includes many Tehran-backed Shiite militias, have reconquered most of Baiji and its surroundings.

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

“There are still a few IS [Daesh] members in there,” he said.

“The security forces and Hashed forces took up positions to take control of some neighbourhoods 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 10th of June 2014”, when Daesh made massive territorial gains with a lightning offensive that saw Iraq’s federal forces collapse completely.

Since they launched a counter-attack 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 Daesh militants holding the city of Hawijah, east of the Tigris river.

Army and police, backed by hundreds of Sunni tribal fighters incorporated into the Hashed Al Shaabi, 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 mande 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 Daesh captured in May this year.

Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service is leading operations around Ramadi, with backing from the security forces, Sunni tribesmen opposed to Daesh and US-led coalition air strikes.

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

 

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

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