Iraqi forces recapture large portion of Tal Afar center from ′Islamic State′ | News | DW | 26.08.2017
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Iraqi forces recapture large portion of Tal Afar center from 'Islamic State'

Iraqi forces have seized most parts of the northern city of Tal Afar from "Islamic State" (IS). The city is strategically important as it lies on the supply route between Syria and the former IS stronghold of Mosul.

The Iraqi army said in a statement on Saturday its troops have "liberated" Tal Afar's city center and its Ottoman-era citadel.

"Units of the Counter-Terrorism Service liberated the citadel and Basatin districts and raised the Iraqi flag on top of the citadel," General Abdulamir Yarallah, the military offensive's commander, said.

The aerial and ground offensives to recapture Tal Afar, located 70 kilometers (43 miles) west of Mosul, from the militant IS group started earlier this month.

Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said Saturday IS had been driven out from 70 percent of the city.

"God willing, the remaining part will be liberated soon," Jaafari said at a news conference with his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, and French Defense Minister Florence Parly, who are currently visiting the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

Strategic stronghold

Tal Afar has long been a stronghold for hard-line Sunni insurgents. It was cut off from other IS-held territories in June during the Iraqi-led operation to recapture Mosul.

Read more: Iraq PM Haider al-Abadi declares Mosul victory over 'Islamic State'Iraqi PM declares Mosul victory over IS

According to US and Iraqi military sources, there are roughly 2,000 IS militants in and around the city.

Over the past weeks, the US-led coalition against IS has carried out dozens of airstrikes in Tal Afar and the surrounding areas, targeting command centers and ammunition caches.

Humanitarian organizations are not expecting a mass exodus similar to that seen during the Mosul offensive and its eventual recapture. Between 10,000 and 40,000 civilians are believed to be in Tal Afar and surrounding areas, according to the International Organization for Migration.

shs/jlw (AFP, Reuters)

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