Iraqi Forces Continue Offensive in Tal Afar Against Islamic State

Iraqi Forces Continue Offensive in Tal Afar Against Islamic State

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

On Monday (August 21), the second day of the Iraqi offensive towards Tal Afar, federal police managed to go deep in several areas west of Tal Afar, killing 20 ISIS militants and destroying their vehicles and motorbikes.

A longtime stronghold of hardline Sunni Muslim insurgents, Tal Afar, 50 miles (80 km) west of Mosul in Iraq's far north, experienced cycles of sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shia Muslims after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, and it has produced some of ISIS’ most senior commanders.

The city was cut off from the rest of ISIS-held territory in June. It is surrounded by Iraqi government troops and Shia volunteers in the south, and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in the north.

The United Nation's International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimated that some 10,000 to 40,000 people are still living in the town of Tal Afar and surrounding areas.

ISIS’ 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.