A video screengrab shows PM Haider al Abadi announcing the start of ops in Tal Afar
22 August, 2017, 02:03
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has warned that Islamic State fighters must either "surrender or die" as he announced the launch of the offensive to liberate the city of Tal Afar.
The Iraqi air force dropped leaflets over the city warning people to "prepare" for the latest assault.
Un Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq Lisa Grande said Sunday that "more than 30,000 people have already fled" the Tal Afar region and that thousands more were expected to seek to flee.
USA forces are taking part in an ongoing military operation to dislodge the Daesh terrorist group from Iraq's northwestern Tal Afar district, according to an Iraqi military source.
As well as in Iraq, IS has suffered major setbacks in Syria, where US-backed fighters have retaken more than half of its de facto Syrian capital Raqa.
Iraqi forces have made significant progress as they close in on the Islamic State-held town of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, the US-led coalition said.
The Iraqi government, for its part, says US soldiers are not taking part in the fighting and are only collecting and sharing intelligence and providing Iraq with logistical support.
She also called upon the advancing Iraqi force to rescue the enslaved Izadis "as soon as possible".
About 2,000 battle-hardened militants remain in the city, according to Iraqi military commanders.
However, Tal Afar's urban landscape differs significantly from Mosul's confined quarters and passages, allowing Iraqi and coalition forces to use heavy artillery and target jihadists' positions from the air, without posing a danger to civilians.
Iraq's official military spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Rasoul said that the offensive will involve the Iraqi Army counterterrorism services (CTS), police and Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitaries (PMUs).
Although thousands of people managed to flee Tal Afar in the recent weeks, the United Nations International Organization for Migration estimates that between 10,000 to 40,000 people are still in the city and surrounding villages, often prevented from leaving by jihadists who use them as human shields.
"The liberation of Tal Afar means an exit to the Syrian border and the closure of the road for the IS".
Fighters from Popular Mobilization Units fire against the Daesh Takfiri militants on the outskirts of Tal Afar, Iraq, on August 20, 2017. During the insurgency, it was a stronghold of hardline Sunni Muslim militants, who were often engaged in sectarian violence against Shi'ite Muslims.
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