- ISIL now contained in Hawija, Tel Afar and Mosul
- Gains in Shirqat came over 3 days
- Mosul push could come next month – officials
Iraqi forces, backed by air strikes from the US-led coalition, have gained complete control of the northern district of Shirqat.
Iraqi forces advanced swiftly through the area after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the operation on Tuesday morning.
Analysts say it brings the military a step closer to a main push on Mosul later this year.
What about civilians?
Tens of thousands of civilians are thought to be trapped in the town, as well as nearby villages.
They have been under ISIL control since the group seized a third of Iraqi territory in 2014.
However, the operation has so far not generated the large-scale out-flux of people seen in other recent campaigns.
The UNHCR says there was no displacement on Tuesday and only 32 people left their homes for a nearby reception centre on Wednesday.
The Iraqi authorities hope the course of battle will allow residents to shelter in place to avoid creating a humanitarian crisis as forces move towards the more heavily-populated Mosul.
Islamic State driven from strategic town of Shirqat, Iraqi military says https://t.co/CUUWioiYpU 🔓— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) September 22, 2016
Why Shirqat is important
Shirqat is on the Tigris river, 100 km south of Mosul.
It has been surrounded for months by Iraqi troops and Iranian-backed Shi’ite Muslim militias allied to the government.
The area has strategic importance as it is close to Iraqi supply lines leading to Qayyara air base further north.
Qayyara will be used as a logistics hub for the push on Mosul.
The fighting was led by the army, backed by local police and Sunni Muslim tribal fighters.
The militias do not seem to have taken part.
When will the push on Mosul begin?
US and Iraqi officials say the push on Mosul could begin in October.
However, there are concerns that not enough planning has been done for how to manage the city, which is Iraq’s second-largest, if and when ISIL is expelled.
What they are saying
Brigadier-General Yahya Rasool, a spokesperson for the military’s joint operations command, said in a statement broadcast on state television that the district had been liberated from the “desecration of terrorism.”