Erbil- Iraqi forces entered Hawija on Wednesday after heavy battles with ISIS militants, as civilians continued to flee the town that lies southwest of Kirkuk.
“The army, the Federal Police, the Emergency Response division and rapid response (Popular Mobilization Forces) stormed Hawija,” said a statement from the joint operations commander, Lieutenant-General Abdul Ameer Rasheed Yarallah.
“Progress is continuing,” he said.
Eyewitnesses in Hawjia told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that ISIS militants fled towards the neighboring town of Riyadh when Iraqi forces stormed Hawija.
Riyadh is one of the last ISIS bastions southwest of Kirkuk.
Despite the Iraqi forces’ advance, there are some pockets of resistance in Hawija.
Mohammed Saeed, a fighter from the 15th army brigade who is participating in the battle for Hawija, said ISIS is collapsing and its militants are not showing any resistance, and are fleeing rather than confronting.
“The majority of those who have escaped from the liberated areas are foreigners. According to information we have received, they fled to the Hamrin mountains,” said Saeed.
He added that ISIS terrorists had resorted to suicide car bombings to stop the advance of Iraqi troops, but they failed to show any resistance inside Hawija.
Iraq launched an offensive on Sept. 21 to dislodge ISIS from Hawija and surrounding areas.
Hundreds of people, mainly woman and children, are fleeing the fighting to Makhmur district that lies southwest of Erbil, the city of Kirkuk and Salahuddin province.