Iraqi forces have closed in on the center of Qayyarah as part of their action to purge the town of Takfiri Daesh terrorists in the lead-up to a wider operation in the nearby city of Mosul.
Iraqi Brigadier General Najm al-Juburi, the spokesman for the operations command in Nineveh province, told AFP on Wednesday that a vast majority of villages around Qayyarah had been retaken since Tuesday, and the town was now encircled.
“There are only a few meters left before troops advancing from the west and troops coming from the east meet and complete the siege around Qayyarah,” he said.
Juburi also noted that the liberation of Qayyarah “will mean cutting off Mosul from the southern areas, which will make liberating Mosul much easier.”
The Iraqi troops have managed to retake the Qayyarah air field, which is now going to be used to attack Daesh elements, he further pointed out.
Meanwhile, local military officials said that a nearby oil field and refinery in Qayyarah had been recaptured from Daesh.
The Iraqi army troops and Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) forces launched the Qayyarah offensive on Tuesday in cooperation with the armed residents of the contested town.
Qayyarah, which fell to Daesh in 2014, lies on the western bank of the Tigris river, some 60 kilometers (35 miles) south of Mosul. The town is expected to be used as a launchpad for the upcoming operation in Mosul.
Qayyarah Mayor Saleh al-Juburi said on Tuesday that approximately 15,000 civilians were believed to be trapped by Daesh there.
The Iraqi army is gearing up for a major offensive in late September to purge Daesh from Mosul, the last remaining bastion for the terror group in the north of the country. Iraqi forces have managed to wrest control of several areas in the southern parts of the city.
On Tuesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi pledged to rid the entire country of Daesh by the end of 2016.
The northern and western parts of Iraq have been plagued by gruesome violence ever since Daesh terrorists mounted an offensive in June 2014.
The Iraqi army and fighters from the Popular Mobilization Units have been engaged in joint operations to retake militant-held areas.