SHAFAQNA – Iraqi fighters from the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) have retaken control of four villages as part of a large-scale military operation to dislodge the remnants of the ISIS Takfiri terrorist group from their hideouts in the desert in northern Iraq.
The media bureau of the volunteer pro-government forces, commonly known by the Arabic name Hashd al-Sha’abi, announced in a statement on Saturday that they had recaptured the villages of Shaheriyah, Tar al-Baghal, al-Hajal and Wadi az Qaytoun southwest of Hawijah, located 45 kilometers west of the northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk, Arabic-language al-Forat news agency reported.
The development came only a day after the commander of Upper Euphrates and al-Jazira Liberation Operations, Major General Abdul Amir Yarallah, said the Iraqi army, Hashd al-Sha’abi brigades and federal police forces had established control over 45 villages as they cleared some 2,400 square kilometers of land from the ISIS extremists.
The troops destroyed two car bomb-making sites, five booby-trapped vehicles and two vehicles carrying heavy machine guns, along with detonating and defusing more than 450 explosive devices, Yarallah noted.
On Thursday, Yarallah announced the launch of the second phase of the offensive aimed at clearing the vast desert near the border with Syria, which extends to the northern provinces of Nineveh and Salahuddin and the western province of Anbar.
The forces ended the first phase of the offensive on November 17, when they drove out the ISIS extremists from their last urban stronghold in Iraq and raised the Iraqi flag over buildings in the western town of Rawah and nearby border areas north of the Euphrates River.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited the newly-liberated town of Qa’im and the nearby Husaybah border crossing in far western Iraq on November 5, and raised the Iraqi flag at the border crossing.
On October 5, Abadi said Iraqi armed forces had liberated Hawijah, driving ISIS out of its last bastion in the northern province of Kirkuk.