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Iraq launches Tal Afar offensive

The Iraqi military has begun an operation to take one of the last remaining cities held by the Islamic State

20 August 2017, 11:13am
Iraqi forces have launched an offensive on Tal Afar after retaking the city of Mosul last month
Iraqi forces have launched an offensive on Tal Afar after retaking the city of Mosul last month
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi this morning announced that Iraqi ground forces have begun an operation to retake Tal Afar, one of the last cities in the country still held by the Islamic State (IS) militant group.

In a televised speech, al-Abadi said the remaining jihadists needed to choose between surrender or death.

The offensive comes a month after the same forces successfully launched an offensive on Mosul, which had served as the Islamic State’s capital in Iraq.

The city, which lies some 80km west of Mosul, has been an IS stronghold since it fell in 2014 and was cut off from the rest of IS’ territory in June.

It is currently surrounded by Iraqi government troops, Shiite volunteers as well as Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in the north, with an estimated 2,000 fighters still holed up in the city.

Hours before Abadi's announcement, the Iraqi air force dropped leaflets over the city telling the population to take their precautions. "Prepare yourself, the battle is imminent and the victory is coming, God willing," they read.

Despite intelligence indicating that the militants are low on supplies after months of aerial bombardments, retaking the city, which had a population of 200,000 is expected to be challenging.

Many civilians have fled the city in recent weeks however many remain trapped, unable to escape.

Beside Tal Afar, IS controls territory around Hawija, 170km (105 miles) to the south-east; and from Ana to Al-Qaim in the Euphrates river valley, 220km to the south.