Iraqi forces push DAESH terrorists out of western town of Hit in Anbar province amid offensive backed by US-led air strikes
Iraqi forces supported by US-led coalition air strikes have reached the centre of western town of Hit in Anbar province, dislodging DAESH terrorists and evacuating thousands of civilians, the state television said on Friday.
Baghdad has had success in pushing back DAESH in recent months and vowed to retake the northern city of Mosul later this year, though the first phase of that campaign was put on hold this week.
A local commander said the Iraqi forces pushed back the terrorists from their stronghold in Hit, which had a pre-war population of nearly 100,000, however fighting is still continuing.
"We are still pursuing them. They have abandoned their families and fled," the commander said in a live broadcast.
"Within days, God willing, Iraqis will rejoice at the complete liberation of Anbar province."
The government forces' control of Hit appeared incomplete and fragile on Friday as the terrorist had planted explosives in roads, cars and buildings, and also tried to retake a main street but were repelled, one commander said.
A coalition official said on Sunday that up to 300 DAESH terrorists based in Hit had built formidable defensive perimeter.
The counter-terrorism forces, which have led the military's offensive in Anbar for months, helped more than 10,000 civilians leave Hit in recent days, the commanders said.
The recapture of Hit, located on the Euphrates River near Ain al Asad Air Base where several hundred US officials are training Iraqi army troops, should result in the push back of DAESH further west towards the Syrian border.
DAESH have regularly used civilians as human shields, a tactic aimed at slowing the advance of Iraqi forces and air strikes essential to the ground advance.
Separately, an explosion went off in Baquba, 65 km northeast of Baghdad, following Friday prayer, killing the mosque's imam and his son and wounding several worshippers.
US Secretary of State Kerry's Baghdad visit
US Secretary of State John Kerry, visiting Baghdad on Friday, said Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi had made no request for additional US troops to help combat DAESH terrorists.
Kerry met with Abadi and other senior Iraqi officials in Baghdad.
Kerry told reporters at the US embassy that he wanted to assure Iraqi President Abadi of the US support, who is dealing with a political crisis, a collapsing economy and a war against DAESH.
He said he made clear to Abadi that it is imperative to have political stability in Iraq so that military operations would be effective.