Published: Mon, August 21, 2017
World Media | By Shelia Harmon

Iraqi forces launch offensive on ISIS-held city Tal Afar

Iraqi forces launch offensive on ISIS-held city Tal Afar

Members of the terrorist organization had to "surrender or be killed", al-Abadi said in a televised address, according to regional broadcaster Al Arabiya.

Tal Afar, about 80 kilometers from Mosul and 150 kilometers from the Syrian border, represents one of the last pockets of territory held in the country by the moslty Sunni IS fighters.

The Norwegian Refugee Council said on Saturday that refugees near the northern city of Tal Afar were faced with harsh conditions, and were stopped by authorities in east of Mosul and Kurdish areas as they tried to flee the fighting.

About 2,000 militants remain in Tal Afar, US and Iraqi military commanders said.

Hours before Abadi's statement, the Iraqi air force dropped leaflets over the city warning people to "prepare" for the latest assault. IS in June 2014 overran Tal Afar, a Shiite enclave in the predominantly Sunni province of Nineveh, on the road between Mosul and Syria. The offensive unites U.S-backed Iraqi forces with Iran-supported.

Tal Afar, 70 km west of Mosul, in the direction of Syria torn apart by violence for six years, had been taken by the group of ultra-radical in June 2014 during his meteoric rise at the end of which he had held up to nearly a third of iraqi territory.

Residents who left Tal Afar last week told Reuters the militants looked exhausted.

"[Fighters] have been using tunnels to move from place to place to avoid air strikes", said 60-year-old Haj Mahmoud, a retired teacher.

Joint Operation Commander Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir Jarallah said in a statement on Sunday the forces involved in the offensive were the Army's 9th Armored Division, its 15th and 16th Brigades, counter-terrorism units, federal police and pro-government militias from the Popular Mobilization Forces.

Some 49,000 people have fled the Tal Afar district since April, according to the United Nations. It was one of the first waystations in Iraq for foreign fighters pouring into the country from Syria, and later became an important hub for supplies moving between the militants' two largest holdings, Raqqa in Syria and Mosul.It was also the home town of a number of the Iraqi Islamic State's senior figures.

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