Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi speaks during a news conference in Baghdad
(Reuters) Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced on Tuesday the launching of a military operation to retake Shirqat, an ISIL bastion 100 km (60 miles) south of ISIL’s’ Mosul stronghold.

The northern town on the banks of the Tigris River, which Iraqi troops and the popular mobilization forces have surrounded, is thought to contain tens of thousands of civilians.

Officials have warned for months of a humanitarian disaster inside where residents living under ISIL’s harsh rule say food supplies have dwindled and prices soared.

Abadi said in a televised message from New York, where he is attending the United Nations General Assembly, that Iraqi forces would also move to retake two areas in western Anbar governorate.

“These operations pave the way for cleansing every inch of Iraqi land and God willing its end will be the liberation of Mosul city.. the liberation of all Iraqi lands and the end of ISIL,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIL.

Abadi has pledged repeatedly to retake Mosul by the end of the year, and Iraqi commanders have indicated that could begin as soon as the second half of October.

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