Iraq liberates IS-held Shirqat in lightning offensive

Iraq liberates IS-held Shirqat in lightning offensive
The Iraqi army - backed by US-led coalition war planes - faced weak resistance from holed up IS fighters, to overrun a key supply route towards Mosul.
2 min read
22 September, 2016
It took Iraqi troops 48 hours to retake the town from IS militants [AFP]

Iraqi forces have recaptured Shirqat from Islamic State group militants after a brief two-day offensive, Baghdad has said.

Iraqi authorities announced on Thursday its forces had "completely liberated the Shirqat district and raised the Iraqi flag over the government headquarters" in the town.

Both Iraqi aircraft and the US-led coalition provided air support, the country's Joint Operations Command said, in a statement that hailed the speed of the operation.

Pro-Baghdad forces began the offensive on Tuesday to oust IS from the town.

This would give the army command over supply lines needed for the battle to retake Iraq's second city, Mosul.

"The battle hasn't gone as expected, because [IS] has shown weak resistance," an Iraqi army officer told The New Arab on Wednesday.

"Air support has played an important role in the battle, as it has eroded [IS'] ability to confront the Iraqi advance," he added.

Iraqi forces initially bypassed Shirqat to retake a key military base to its north as well as the neighbouring town of Qayyarah. They have now turned their attention to the continued IS presence behind their front lines.

Shirqat, about 155 miles [250km] northwest of Baghdad, was among the first areas to fall into IS hands in June 2014.

Iraqi forces backed by US-led air strikes and training have since retaken significant ground including the cities of Tikrit, Ramadi and Fallujah.

Mosul offensive

US military officers have hinted that the final push for Mosul could begin next month.

However, there are still significant military, political and humanitarian obstacles between the launch of the operation and entering and retaking the city.

Abadi has described the offensive as a "new phase for the heroic operations".

Iraqi militias taking a leading role in the fight against IS, have been accused of human rights' abuses, ethnic cleansing and killing civilians by NGOs.