Official: Iraq has plan in place to free towns of Hawija, Tal Afar from ISIS

A member of the Counter Terrorism Service walks past the ruined Grand al-Nuri Mosque in the Old City in Mosul, Iraq, June 30, 2017.

:: Iraq’s Counter-terrorism service (CTS) has a plan in place to recapture the towns of Hawijah and Tal Afar from ISIS militants, its spokesman Sabah al-Numan said Friday.

Numan said once orders are issued to liberate Hawija in the center-north and Tal Afar in the northwest, CTS is ready to participate against ISIS to free these areas.

Although the northern city of Mosul was ISIS’s main stronghold in Iraq, it is not its only base. The group still fully controls five other Iraqi towns, albeit much smaller than Mosul.

These are Tal Afar, Hawija, and the towns of Qaim, Rawa and Ana in the far west near the Syrian borders.

Hundreds of civilians fled Mosul’s Old City on Friday as Iraqi forces slowly squeezed the last pockets of ISIS resistance, and the UN warned that the “intense and concentrated” fighting put innocent lives in even greater danger.

People climbed over mounds of rubble and through narrow alleys as gunshots and explosions rang out nearby. The neighborhoods where government forces are fighting have been under siege for months as grueling urban warfare drew out the operation to retake Iraq’s second-largest city.

Displaced Iraqi civilians are seen after fleeing from the Old City in Mosul, Iraq, June 30, 2017.

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