Iraqi PM says start of Tal Afar liberation op underway
21 August, 2017, 01:58 | Author: Ora Austin
Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi announced the offensive in a pre-dawn televised speech.
Addressing the militants, the Prime Minister, who is also the head of the country's armed forces, said they have no option but to "surrender or die".
A longtime stronghold of hardline Sunni militants, Tal Afar, 80km west of Mosul, was cut off from the rest of the IS-held territory in June.
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.
Gen. Yahya Rasool, a spokesman for the Iraqi military, told reporters Thursday, according to NY times.
Waves of civilians have fled the city and surrounding villages under cover of darkness over the past weeks, although several thousand are estimated to remain, threatened with death by the militants who have held a tight grip there since 2014.
Some parts, including small towns and mountain areas, remain under Islamic State control, especially along the border. Also, the Iraqi air force dropped leaflets over the city to warn people to "prepare" for the latest assault.
"We have information about the presence of foreigners within ISIS ranks in Tal Afar, but we do not know their identity", Asadi pointed out.
Despite intelligence indicating that the militants are low on supplies after months of aerial bombardments, retaking the city, which had a population of 200,000 is expected to be challenging.
"The Iraqi Security Forces' operation to liberate Tal Afar is another important fight that must be won to ensure the country and its citizens are finally free of [IS]", said US Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of the anti-IS coalition. US-backed Iraqi forces completed the takeover of Mosul after a brutal nine-month campaign.
"Their faces looked desperate and broken".
Hashd al-Shaabi [Popular Mobilisation Forces] commanders said fighters had taken key hills surrounding the IS bastion, while others advanced into the town from the south.
US-led coalition air strikes have been started targeting ISIL fighters in the city, just one month after securing victory in Mosul. "I do not believe that the battle in Tal Afar will be tougher than the battle in Mosul", a senior-level Iraqi military officer told the Reuters news agency.
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