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Led forces open fight to reclaim Islamic State stronghold in Iraq

The U.N. Security Council has authorized the world body's investigators to help Iraq collect evidence that could lead to prosecuting Islamic State extremists for war crimes.

The objective of the iraqi troops is to take Anna, and then Rawa and finally Qaïm, last town before the border and the province of syria, Deir ez-zor.

According to Iraqi network NRT, offensives on Shirqat and Kirkuk's Hawija will be launched simultaneously with current push in western Anbar.

Mr Abadi said he had launched the assault on Hawija on Thursday morning "in accordance with our commitment to our people to liberate all Iraqi territory and eradicate [IS] terrorist groups" and predicted another victory.

ISIS' self-declared "caliphate" effectively collapsed in July, when US-backed Iraqi forces captured Mosul, the group's de facto capital in Iraq.

Hawija is located in Iraq's oil-rich province of Kirkuk, one of the disputed areas covered by the referendum that Baghdad has condemned as unconstitutional.

The United Nations reported that masses of civilians have been displaced from Hawija due to the fighting in the area. Up to 30,000 children are in extreme danger, Save the Children said on Thursday.

"Food, water and medicine are running out, with many children reportedly weak and malnourished".

As Iraqi and US-led coalition forces mount an operation to retake the northern town of Hawija from the Islamic State group (IS), concerns are growing that tens of thousands of children will suffer amid the intense fighting and bombing.

"Now families face a awful choice of staying put as fighting intensifies, or risking their lives to flee on foot for up to 12 hours through minefields and snipers, then wade across a river to reach safety".

Mr Shakaram said it was imperative that Iraqi and coalition forces opened up safe escape routes for civilians, and called on them to avoid the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

In addition to the attack on Hawija, the iraqi forces continued their offensive in the desert in the west of the country.

The battle for the reconquest of this city comes at the approach of the referendum on the independence of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, in which the province of Kirkuk has chose to participate, against the advice of Baghdad, which considers the vote to be contrary to the iraqi Constitution.

Mr Abadi says the referendum is "anti-constitutional" and wants it cancelled.

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