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Iraq steps up strikes on IS-held Hawija ahead of offensive

Qassim Abdul-Zahra reports for AP:

The Iraqi air force and the U.S.-led coalition have stepped up a campaign of airstrikes on the Islamic State group-held town of Hawija Saturday ahead of a planned ground assault there, according to Iraq's minister of defense.

Also Saturday, the secretary general of the Arab league visited Baghdad to encourage political dialogue with Irbil as Iraq's Kurdish region pushes forward with plans to hold a referendum on independence Sept. 25.

Despite ongoing military operations to clear out the last pockets of territory held by IS, the looming referendum has increased tensions between the central government and the Kurdish region.

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