Tabnak – Days after the formal start of the operation to liberate Tal-Afar from ISIS grip, Iraqi forces managed to achieve considerable gains, including the retake of central parts of the city. It seems that ISIS’ days in Iraq are really numbered this time after more than three years of heavy fighting around the country.
Iranian news outlet Press TV cites a statement of the Iraqi armed forces as saying they have managed to retake the center of Tal Afar from ISIS terrorists as their battle to liberate the northern city enters a final stage.
"Units of the Counter-Terrorism Service liberated the Citadel and Basatin districts and raised the Iraqi flag on top of the citadel,” Commander of Tal Afar Liberation Operation Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Yarallah said in a statement. The announcement came hours after Iraq’s Foreign said security forces had liberated 70 percent of Tal Afar from the control of ISIS.
Yarallah also said that units of the 9th Armored Division and the Popular Mobilization Units, also known as the Hashd al-Shaabi, had captured al-Muthanna 2 district and the Tal Afar Hospital.
After the recent gains of the Iraqi forces, now only a small area remains under ISIS control, in the north of the city, according to a map released by the Iraqi Joint Military Command.
However, Yarallah said his forces were now dealing with the final pockets of ISIS resistance in Tal Afar. Meanwhile, soldiers from Hashd al-Shaabi said they had encountered resistance from ISIS in the form of snipers, booby-trapped cars and mortars.
Iraqi News notes in its report that joint troops of army, Federal Police, Counter-Terrorism Forces and PMFs liberated many districts including al-Qadisiya, al-Rabei and al-Salam, al-Bawari region as well as many villages and raised the Iraqi flag there.
Operations continue on the seventh day after Iraqi PM Haidar al-Abadi announced in a televised speech last week the beginning of offensive to recapture Tal Afar, which has been held by the terrorist since 2014, when the ISIS first emerged to proclaim its self-styled ‘caliphate’.
This came after 40 days of declaring victory in Mosul, the group’s former capital, where operations lasted between October to July. In fact, Tal Afar is the last city still under the control of ISIS in Iraq's Nineveh province following the liberation of Mosul, about 45 miles to the east.
At the meantime, as the effort to retake Tal Afar got underway, the US-led coalition estimated that between 10,000 and 50,000 civilians remained in and around the city. The United Nations warned of the risks to thousands of Iraqi families as they seek to flee the battleground in scorching heat.
More than 30,000 civilians have fled the Tal Afar area since the end of April, many of them arriving at Iraqi government mustering points exhausted and dehydrated after trekking for 10 to 20 hours in extreme heat, the UN said.
ISIS unleashed a campaign of death and destruction in Iraq in 2014, seizing Mosul and declaring it as its so-called "capital” in the Middle Eastern country. Iraqi army soldiers and allied fighters have been leading a major operation to rid the country of the terrorist elements.