Iraqi Forces Start Offensive to Take Back Isis-Held City of Tal Afar

Iraqi Forces Start Offensive to Take Back Isis-Held City of Tal Afar

Iraqi security forces launched on Sunday (August 20) an offensive to take back the city of Tal Afar, their next objective in the U.S.-backed campaign to defeat Islamic State militants, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said.

"You either surrender, or die," Abadi said in a televised speech announcing the offensive, addressing the militants.

A longtime stronghold of hardline Sunni insurgents, Tal Afar, 50 miles (80 km) west of Mosul, was cut off from the rest of the Islamic State-held territory in June.

The city is surrounded by Iraqi government troops and Shia volunteers in the south, and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in the north.

About 2,000 battle-hardened militants remain in the city, according to U.S. and Iraqi military commanders.

Islamic State's self-proclaimed "caliphate" effectively collapsed last month, when U.S.-backed Iraqi forces completed the takeover of the militants' capital in Iraq, Mosul, after a nine-month campaign

Beyond Tal Afar, the city with about 200,000 residents before falling to ISIS, the militants still controls other pockets of territory in Iraq, including the town of Hawija and the surrounding area.

Tal Afar's Shia community fled after ISIS swept through the region two years ago, declaring from Mosul a "caliphate" that also spanned parts of Syria.