Led Iraqi forces launch battle for Tal Afar

Bruno Cirelli
Agosto 21, 2017

They later fired mortar rounds and launched drones.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the offensive in a pre-dawn televised speech.

Iraqi forces early Sunday started a military operation in Tal Afar, one of Islamic State's last important strongholds in the country.

"I am saying to Daesh that there's no choice other than to leave or be killed", he said.

"We have won all our battles, and Daesh have always lost", he said, telling his troops: "The entire world is with you".

The Tal Afar offensive involves all branches of the Iraqi security forces, including three army divisions, the counterterrorism service, federal police and emergency response divisions, police and local militias, according to the US military.

"Mosul was a decisive victory for the Iraqi Security Forces, but it did not mark the end of [IS] in Iraq, or its worldwide threat", said US Army Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, the commander of US and Coalition forces in Iraq and Syria.

"The coalition is strong, and fully committed to supporting our Iraqi partners until ISIS is defeated and the Iraqi people are free", he said.

The Coalition will continue to help the Government and Security Forces to liberate the Iraqi people and defeat ISIS through five means - by providing equipment, training, intelligence, precision fires and combat advice.

IS jihadists in June 2014 overran Tal Afar, a Shiite enclave in the predominantly Sunni province of Nineveh, on the road between Mosul and Syria.

The Coalition estimates that approximately 10,000-50,000 civilians remain in and around Tal Afar.

The U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande, said civilians inside Tal Afar face "very tough" conditions, with short supplies of food, water and many basic necessities.

"Families are trekking for 10 to 20 hours in extreme heat to reach mustering points".

A stepped up campaign of airstrikes and a troop buildup has already forced tens of thousands to flee Tal Afar, threatening to compound a humanitarian crisis sparked by the Mosul operation.

Iraqi warplanes have bombarded IS positions in the city for several days, in preparation for ground operations.

The main forces taking part in the offensive are the Iraqi army, Federal Police and the elite US -trained Counter-Terrorism Service, Iraqi commanders told Reuters. And the Shiite-dominated Hashd al-Shaabi militia announced taking Tal al-Sabban village, Rudaw reported.

"Victory is near" in Tal Afar, an "Iraqi city taken hostage and humiliated for years by attacks from these barbarians", he said.

The authorities said they had set up a radio station to keep residents informed of developments.

IS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces have since regained much of the territory.

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