Iraqi troops retake key positions from IS in Shirqat

Iraqi troops retake key positions from IS in Shirqat
The Iraqi army has made vast gains over the first two days of an operation to retake key town, ahead of an offensive on the Islamic State group's bastion, Mosul.
2 min read
22 September, 2016
IS militants have shown weak resistance to army advances, say commanders [AFP]

Iraqi forces are pushing towards Mosul in an offensive it is hoped will weaken the Islamic State group in the country, commanders said on Thursday.

Pro-Baghdad forces began the operation on Tuesday to oust IS from the northern town of Shirqat, which would give the army command over supply lines needed for the battle to retake Iraq's second city.

Soldiers from the 9th Armoured Division have retaken the local government headquarters in Shirqat, as well as a hospital.

"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 who have been taking land from IS, have been accused of human rights' abuses, ethnic cleansing and killing civilians by NGOs.