Iraqi Forces Dislodge Isis From 70 Percent of Tal Afar, Commanders Say
Iraqi forces have dislodged the Islamic State (ISIS) from 70 percent of Tal Afar, a stronghold of the militants in northwestern Iraq, including its central citadel neighborhood, officials and military commanders said on Saturday (August 26).
The offensive on Tal Afar, which lies on the supply route between Syria and the former ISIS stronghold of Mosul, started on Sunday (August 20).
The elite Counter Terrorism Service "liberated the citadel neighborhood… and raised the Iraqi flag on top of the citadel building," a statement from the Iraqi joint operations command said.
Much of the Ottoman-era citadel itself was destroyed by the militants at the end of 2014.
Tal Afar, which had a pre-war population of about 200,000, is the latest objective in the U.S.-backed war on ISIS following the recapture of Mosul after a nine-month campaign that left much of the city, the biggest in northern Iraq, in ruins.
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.
A longtime stronghold of ISIS insurgents, Tal Afar, 50 miles (80 km) west of Mosul, was cut off from the rest of the ISIS-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.
They are expected to put up a tough fight, even though intelligence from inside the city indicates they have been exhausted by months of combat, aerial bombardments, and by the lack of fresh supplies.