Mosul- Iraqi forces captured the northern town of Sharqat on Friday, achieving the first goal of a new offensive against the ISIS bastion of Hawija on just its second day, Agence France Presse reported.
Hawija is some 30 kilometres to the southeast of Sharqat and one of the last pockets still controlled by the militants in Iraq.
Government troops entered the town center and tore down the black flags of the militants who had ruled it with an iron fist for more than three years.
AFP correspondents saw little damage in the town which had been rocked by fighting, and the bodies of two militants in the back of a pickup.
A total of 23 villages near Sharqat were captured from ISIS, said the operation’s commander, Lieutenant General Abdul Ameer Yarallah, on Thursday.
Iraqi forces also captured on Thursday the region of Ana, in the Euphrates River valley, as they pushed toward the Syria border, a military statement said.