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Iraq gears up for fresh army ops in Saladin, Kirkuk

IRAQ GEARS UP FOR FRESH ARMY OPS IN SALADIN, KIRKUK

Iraqi forces are gearing up for twin campaigns aimed at purging the northern Saladin and Kirkuk provinces of Daesh's last remaining strongholds in the region, an Iraqi military source said Friday.

"Federal Police armored vehicles and artillery battalions have been deployed to a base in Saladin's Al-Shirqat district in advance of the campaign," Captain Saad Mohamed of the army's Saladin Operations Command told Anadolu Agency.

"Meanwhile, fresh reinforcements from the 56th Brigade of the Hashd al-Asheiri [pro-government Sunni tribal fighters] have been sent to the outskirts of Kirkuk's western Hawija district for planned operations to liberate the area from Daesh," Mohamed said.

He added that the recent deployments coincided with a series of airstrikes targeting Daesh militants still holed up in Hawija's Qadisiyah, Neda, Tanak and Yarmouk neighborhoods.

Iraqi forces hope to fully recapture both districts -- Al-Shirqat and Hawija -- in simultaneous operations.

Last week, the Iraqi army began deploying troops to both areas, which have remained under the terrorist group's control since mid-2014.

Kirkuk's central, northern and eastern regions, meanwhile, have remained under the control of Kurdish forces (Peshmerga and Asayish) since the Iraqi army fled before Daesh's 2014 advance.

The terrorist group has suffered a string of recent military defeats in northern Iraq.

Late last month, Iraqi forces captured Nineveh province's Tal Afar district following a 10-day army operation. And in July, the city of Mosul -- Daesh's last major redoubt in northern Iraq -- fell after a nine-month army campaign.

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