Iraqi Forces have managed to capture the town of Hawija and the surrounding areas formerly under the control of the Islamic State. According to military sources, the militants have since been surrounded at a small pocket to the north and east of the town, and it is projected they will surrender total control to the Iraqi forces.
With the capture of Hawija, the militants’ last stronghold in northern Iraq, the only area that remains under control of Islamic State in Iraq is a stretch alongside the western border with Syria. Hawija is near the Kurdish-held oil city of Kirkuk.
The offensive on Hawija was carried out by US-backed Iraqi government troops and Iranian-trained and armed Shi’ite paramilitary groups known as Popular Mobilization. The next step is projected to include a collaboration between the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters who control Kirkuk to run off the ISIS fighters entirely.
ISIS has since lost most of its strongholds which has resulted in a lot of desperate actions by the militants including the alleged resurfacing of the leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi through an audio message to his followers. The move is considered as the dying kicks of a horse to motivate his fighters seeing as he has maintained a low profile after claims that he has been killed.