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The New Arab

Kirkuk's Hawija town may turn into new IS headquarters

Thousands of civilians remain trapped in Hawija and neighbouring towns [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 26 May, 2017

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IS militants' heavy presence in Hawija has local officials suggesting the town could now become the militant group's new de facto capital.
The town of Hawija in Iraq's Kirkuk province could soon become headquarters for IS-militants, according to local officials.

IS group has had a heavy presence of militants in the town of Hawija since their takeover of major regions of northern Iraq in 2014, and local officials have now suggested the town could now become the militant group's new de facto capital.

Officials further pointed the finger of blame at Haider al-Abadi's government for slow military action against the militants entrenched there.

"The Iraqi government has not responded to our repeated demands to speed up the liberation of the town from IS militants," Najimuldin Karim, governor of Kirkuk said.

"The decision of any military action in the town is in the hands of Abadi, and until now he has not made a decision in this regard," Karim added.

Meanwhile, the MP of the Diyala province - a neighbouring province to Kirkuk - has also warned against further delays of military action.

"Three neighbouring Iraqi governorates, including Diyala, will pay a heavy price if the liberation of Hawija is delayed anymore," MP Ghaida Kambash Kambash said.

"Hawija poses a serious threat to the security of Kirkuk, Salahuddin and Diyala," Kambash said.

"The recent attacks on some areas in Diyala, particularly in the town of al-Azim, have shown the danger associated with Hawija still being under IS control."

The lawmaker added that she has called for a parliamentary session to discuss the matter, noting that around 100 thousand civilians are trapped in Hawija and neighbouring towns and that citizens there remain in a "pitiful situation".

Meanwhile an official from the Kurdistan Democratic Party asserted that Hawija today remains "the focal point of danger for Kirkuk and neighbouring provinces".

Ismail al-Jaf told The New Arab that "the Iraqi government has neglected the town, leaving the danger to worsen and eventually spiral out of control".

Jaf warned there will be large humanitarian causalities, adding that the militant group has already killed many civilians in the town.

"Any delay in the liberation process will be at the expense of human lives," he told The New Arab.

"Quick military action is needed to liberate the town as soon as possible."

Hawija is one of the last two significant Iraqi towns, with Tal Afar, still under IS-militant control.

Iraqi forces launched their major military operation to retake Mosul - where IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his "caliphate" - from IS militants' control nearly seven months ago and have now reached the centre of the Old City.

Last week, spokesman for the Iraqi army said Iraqi forces have recaptured nearly 90 percent of west Mosul and the militants in the city are on the "brink of total defeat".

But while the battle for Mosul is moving ever closer to its conclusion, warnings from Kirkuk indicate the fall of Mosul will not mark the complete end of IS presence in the country.

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