Iraqi Army Says Forces Retake Center of IS Bastion Hawija

Iraqi forces say they have retaken the center of Islamic State group stronghold Hawija in the oil-rich Kirkuk Province and are pushing forward in their assault on one of the last IS bastions in the country.

Troops, police, and paramilitaries backed by a U.S.-led coalition "liberated the whole of the center of Hawija and are continuing their advance," the operation's commander, Lieutenant General Abdel Amir Yarallah, said.

The Hawija offensive began on September 21. Hawija is located some 240 kilometers north of Baghdad and 50 kilometers to the west of Kirkuk.

The United Nations said on October 3 that an estimated 12,500 people had fled Hawija since the launch of the offensive.

The UN says the number of people still in the town was unknown but could be as high as 78,000.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, and dpa