After fall of Tal Afar, Iraqi army sets sights on Mosul’s Daesh-held Al-Hawija district
The Iraqi army on Sunday said the evacuation of endangered civilians would take priority during planned operations to capture Kirkuk’s southern Al-Hawija district from the Daesh terrorist group.
On Saturday, the Defense Ministry announced that the army had redeployed troops from Baghdad to the northern Kirkuk province in advance of a fresh campaign to retake Al-Hawija, which has been held by Daesh since mid-2014.
“We aren’t going to rush this campaign,” Brigadier-General Yahya Rasul, a spokesman for the Iraqi army’s Joint Operations Command (JOC), told Anadolu Agency.
“Our priority will be the evacuation of civilians trapped [in Al-Hawija] by the terrorists,” he said.
“The JOC’s plan is unequivocal in this regard,” Rasul added. “Our first objective will be liberating civilians and ensuring their safety before moving in to the targeted district.”
The campaign to retake Al-Hawija, he added, “will be fundamentally different than that for Tal Afar”.
Late last month, Iraqi forces backed by a U.S.-led coalition captured the district of Tal Afar in the northern Nineveh province following a 10-day campaign.
A predominantly Turkmen district, Tal Afar was overrun by the terrorist group -- along with vast territories in northern and western Iraq, including the since-liberated city of Mosul -- in mid-2014.