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Iraqi Forces Waiting for Green Light to Liberate Hawija

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Shallaw Mohammad

Yalla / Kirkuk

Police in districts and towns across Kirkuk Province, in coordination with field commanders of the Peshmerga and the National Mobilisation Forces (Al-Hashd al-Watani) are making preparations to liberate the district of Al-Hawija, situated in the west of the province.

Al-Hawija, home to a mostly Sunni Arab population, is considered one of the most important Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) strongholds after Mosul.

According to Yalla sources, one thousand policemen from districts and towns in Kirkuk have been divided into two regiments, and have completed military training in Baghdad. They have been stationed in the south of Kirkuk in preparation to retake Al-Hawija district.

Brigadier General Sarhad Qader, police chief of Kirkuk told Yalla, “The majority of the thousand policemen are Sunni Muslims from Al-Hawija, who were trained in Baghdad by the Italian army for two months. They also completed police academy training in Kirkuk, and are now ready to fight ISIL and liberate Al-Hawija.”

The majority of the fighters are policemen who left after the fall of Al-Hawija. Brig. Gen. Qader said, “We are sure they will be good fighters, they have the desire to retaliate against ISIL, because ISIL destroyed their homes and took the lives of their relatives.”

Al-Hawija is situated 55 km west of Kirkuk, the district and its towns make up around one third of the province. After ISIL took control of Mosul on 11 June 2014, Al-Hawija and its five towns also fell under their control, with just one town so far liberated.

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Police graduation ceremony in Kirkuk 19.01.2016, photographer Shallaw Mohammad – Yalla

Yalla has been told by a Peshmerga source that four Peshmerga brigades, three regiments from Al-Hashd al-Watani led by former governor of Nineveh Atheel al-Nujaifi, and one thousand policemen from Kirkuk will participate in the operation to liberate Al-Hawija.

Kamal Kirkuki, a Peshmerga commander on the western front in Kirkuk said, “We have a plan to liberate Al-Hawija but we haven’t set a date for the operation to begin. Until Al-Hawija is liberated, the fear of ISIL attacking Kirkuk will remain despite the group nearing its end in the surrounding areas of Kirkuk.”

Living conditions are continuously worsening for the people of Al-Hawija, due to the harsh laws imposed by ISIL.

The council leader of Al-Multaq, Younis Ali, a prominent member of the al-Jabour tribe in Al-Hawija, suggested a plan for the liberation of al-Hawija similar to the plan used to liberate Al-Multaqa.

Al-Multaqa is 25 km southwest of Kirkuk, and has a population of nearly 60,000. Peshmerga forces and police liberated it 9 March last year, after 9 months under the control of ISIL.

Younis Ali told Yalla “We hope that the police force with the help of the Peshmerga and Al-Hashd Al-Watani can liberate Al-Hawija, because the lives of the citizens are terrible living under ISIL’s rules.”

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