Friday, 15 December, 2017

Iraqi forces close in on Daesh-held Tal Afar

Popular Mobilization Units fighters ride on the back of a truck on their way to fight against Islamic State militants in the airport of Tal Afar west of Mosul Iraq Iraq begins battle to retake Daesh-held city of Tal Afar
Howard Terry | 23 August, 2017, 00:35

The joint forces have killed 31 ISIS fighters, including a suicide bomber, while Iraqi warplanes have destroyed nine VBIEDs of ISIS.

The visit comes two days after US -backed Iraqi security forces launched their offensive to recapture the city of Tal Afar, about 80 kilometers from Mosul and 150 kilometers from the Syrian border.

By the second day, the troops and militiamen had reached the edge of the city. "Prepare yourself, the battle is imminent and the victory is coming, God willing", the leaflets read.

A long-time stronghold of hardline Sunni Muslim insurgents, Tal Afar, 80 km (50 miles) west of Mosul in Iraq's far north, has experienced cycles of sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shi'ite Muslims.

"The fighting is tough", Townsend said, "but the momentum is with our partners".

The US-trained Counter Terrorism Service (CTS), Federal Police, the Rapid Response Force, Iraqi Army, and Hashd al-Shaabi are taking part in the operation with the backing of the coalition.

A major offensive to retake the northern city was launched on Sunday.

Tal Afar's specific landscape incorporates wide ridge lines around city, making a flawless position for jihadists' artillery. He added that Iraqi security forces were capable of carrying out simultaneous operations.

The Iraqi government says US soldiers are not taking part in the fighting and are only collecting and sharing intelligence and providing Iraq with logistics support.

Additionally, Brigadier General Haider Fadhil of the Iraqi special forces told The Associated Press that the advancing troops have not faced tough resistance from Daesh terrorists, even though the Takfiris have made use of rockets, vehicle bombs and roadside bombs to slow their progress.

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

The UN International Organisation for Migration estimates that about 10,000 to 40,000 people were still living in Tal Afar and surrounding areas. He said the militants were using the tunnels to move into and out of Tal Afar, and were targeting military units.

When ISIL captured Tal Afar, the population was estimated at around 200,000 and was overwhelmingly Turkmen, one of Iraq's largest ethnic minorities.

"We fear that Iraqi civilians are likely to be held as human shields again and that attempts to flee could result in executions/shootings", Andrej Mahecic, spokesperson at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told journalists in Geneva about the ongoing operations to retake the city.

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