Iraq’s Defense Minister Al-Hayali Says Tal Afar Liberation Imminent

Iraq’s Defense Minister Al-Hayali Says Tal Afar Liberation Imminent

 Iraq's Defense Minister Arfan al-Hayali said on Saturday (August 26) that the liberation of Tal Afar would be declared shortly by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

Reuters obtained video footage handout from the Ministry of Defense featuring al-Hayali's remarks, made during a visit to the 9th Division headquarters in Tal Afar.

He met with field military commanders and Ahmed al-Safi, a representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Iraqi security forces recently launched an offensive to take back the city of Tal Afar, their next objective in the U.S.-backed campaign to defeat Islamic State militants.

A long-time 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 Shi'ite Muslims after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, and it has produced some of Islamic State's most senior commanders.

The advances were the latest in the campaign to rout the militants from one of their last remaining strongholds in Iraq, three years after they seized wide swathes of the north and west in a shock offensive.