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Iraq launches offensive to retake Tal Afar from ISIL

21 August 2017

The ERD was one of several government security forces backed by a USA -led coalition that drove IS out of Mosul, the northern city the jihadists seized in 2014 and proclaimed their "capital", in a nine-month campaign that ended in July.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi announced on August 19 the launch of an operation to retake the city of Tal Afar, a city west of Mosul and one of Islamic State militants' few remaining strongholds in the country. The US-led coalition fighting IS in Iraq and Syria welcomed the start of the offensive and pledged support to Iraqi forces involved.

Iraqi warplanes have bombarded ISIS positions in the city - approximately 300 miles north of Baghdad - to prepare for ground operations, targeting weapon depots and command centres.

The Tal Afar operation comes six weeks after the Iraqi forces suffered huge casualties in the nine-month-long battle for Mosul.

Tal Afar is a town located in around 43 miles west of Mosul which was the center of all activities of ISIS, according to reports.

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

Hours before Abadi's announcement, the Iraqi air force droped leaflets over the city, telling the population to take precautions.

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IS's self-proclaimed "caliphate" effectively collapsed with the fall of Mosul, but parts of Iraq and Syria remain under its control, especially in border areas.

Shi'ite Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), some of which are trained and armed by Iran, said they will also take part in the battle.

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

Major General Najmal-Jabouri said the jihadists were "worn out and demoralised" and did not expect a fierce battle for the Tal Afar.

Today, the local officials, many now outside of the city, say that they do not know the exact number of civilians who are still there, because as in the other bastions of the AR, the inhabitants are cut off from any contact with the outside world.

The anti-IS coalition acknowledged the presence of the Hashd al-Shaabi in the campaign to retake Tal Afar.

Iraq launches offensive to retake Tal Afar from ISIL