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Iraqi PM Announces Operation to Retake Shirqat, South of Mosul

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Iraqi forces launched an operation on Tuesday to retake a northern town from the Islamic State group in the latest move to prepare a broad offensive on jihadist bastion Mosul.

The spokesman for the Joint-Operation Command, Yahya Rasool, said that special counter-terrorist troops and Sunni combatants from the Hashed al-Ashaeri (Tribal Mobilization) were decisive in the operation, supported by the US-led worldwide coalition.

The Hashed al-Shaabi, which has played a big part in retaking IS-held areas since 2014, is nominally under the control of the prime minister but dominated by Tehran-backed Shiite militia. Hence, it is considered strategic in the offensive to regain control of that city, capital of the demarcation of Ninive.

The reports of the provincial security sources came hours after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the launching of the operations in the two provinces, in a televised message from NY, where he is attending the United Nations General Assembly. The only militias involved were Sunni tribal fighters from the area, he said.

The top USA general later said Iraqi forces would be ready in October, but the timing was up to Abadi.

In recent months, the Iraqi army - backed by USA -led coalition airstrikes and local allies on the ground - has since managed to retake much territory.

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Iraqi forces backed by US -led air strikes have been steadily retaking small towns and villages from IS fighters this year, including the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah.

Hashed al-Shaabi forces had vowed they were days away from Sherqat nearly a year ago, when they tried to keep their momentum after retaking the town of Baiji and pushed on northwards.

Popular Mobilisation forces took significant casualties in recent fighting against IS in Jazirat al-Khaldiyeh, an area in Anbar that was a major crossroads for fighters and supplies moving across Iraq.

Mayor of Shirqat: Iraqi troops, backed by local police and Sunni Muslim tribal fighters, took up positions and advanced through five villages Tuesday.

Obama's meeting with the Iraqi leader marked the start of a hectic week of diplomacy as he makes his final appearance as president at the annual United Nations gathering.

After meeting with Abadi in NY on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama said he hoped for progress by the end of the year on Mosul. In neighboring Syria, the civil war continues to plague the fight against the Islamic State, but in Iraq, the extremists have lost half the territory they once held, according to the U.S.

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