(MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) WASHINGTON, Oct 10 (KUNA) -- US backed forces in have driven out terrorist fighters from last remaining territory strongholds in Syria and Iraq, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
Iraqi security forces are conducting clearance operations in the "Hawija Pocket" in Iraq's Kirkuk province while facing small clusters of so-called Islamic State resistance fighters, Army Colonel Rob Manning said in a press briefing.
"In the past 24 hours, they have cleared 1,083 square kilometers [about 418 square miles]," he said. "The federal police are conducting clearance and security operations throughout the Northern Hawija Pocket." According to Manning, clearance operations are also underway in Iraq's western Anbar province. In Nineveh province, police are continuing patrols and put up checkpoints as part of ongoing security operations.
"Security forces operating in Mosul and Tal Afar have reported success in finding and eliminating several locations storing or producing explosives and [improvised explosive device] systems," he said. Over the weekend, coalition military forces conducted seven strikes in Iraq against IS targets in Qaim, Huwija, Rawa, Hit and Tuz.
In neighboring Syria, US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces liberated 17 city blocks in Raqqa and 10 square miles along the Jazeera axis in the past 24 hours, according to Manning. More than 80 percent of the city has been cleared so far.
The defeat of IS in Raqqa will be "a significant operational and moral blow" to the terrorist group, there is more fighting to be done as the enemy continues to hold a large amount of territory along the Euphrates River Valley," according to Manning.
In Raqqa, local officials are leading discussions with coalition forces on how to safely free civilians held hostage by Islamic State fighters.
The Raqqa Civil Council is leading discussions to determine the best way to enable civilians trapped by IS to exit the city, where some are being held as human shields by the terrorists. Those departing Raqqa who are found to have fought for IS will be turned over to local authorities to face justice, according to Pentagon officials.
"We have a responsibility to defeat Daesh while preserving civilian life to the greatest extent possible," said Coalition Director of Operations Brigadier General Jonathan Braga said in a statement. "Make no mistake: a lot of hard fighting remains and we are committed to the lasting defeat of Daesh." (end) hy.ibi