By AFP – Aug 28,2017 – JORDAN TIMES
Fighters from Hashed Al Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation units), backing the Iraqi forces, gather at Tal Afar’s airport during an operation to retake the city from the Daesh terror group on Sunday. Iraqi forces backed by local militia and a US-led coalition were poised to drive Daesh from Tal Afar, dealing another blow to the extremists (AFP photo)
TAL AFAR, Iraq — Iraqi forces backed by local militia and a US-led coalition were poised Sunday to drive the Daesh terror group from the city of Tal Afar, dealing another blow to the extremists.
Just a week after authorities announced an offensive to push the extremists from one of their last major urban strongholds in Iraq, the Joint Operations Command said Iraqi forces held all 29 districts of the city and were pursuing final mopping up operations.
Pro-government fighters could already be seen celebrating, waving Iraqi flags and flashing victory signs as their tanks rolled through the streets.
The offensive comes just weeks after Iraqi forces retook second city Mosul from Daesh, in their biggest victory since the extremists seized control of large parts of Syria and Iraq in mid-2014.
Much of that territory has since been retaken with support from coalition air strikes, and Daesh is also facing a major US-backed offensive against its de facto Syrian capital Raqqa.
The loss of Tal Afar, in northern Iraq between Mosul and the Syrian border, will deprive Daesh of what was once a significant hub for movement between the Syrian and Iraqi components of the self-styled “caliphate” it declared three years ago.
On Saturday, Iraqi forces took control of the city centre and Tal Afar’s Ottoman-era citadel.
Nearby, a huge crater could be seen on Sunday at the base of the city’s main mosque, a testament to the intensity of the air strikes that battered the city.
Surrounding buildings still featured religious slogans written by the extremists and an Daesh flag lay upside down on the ground.
Government troops and units of the Hashed Al Shaabi paramilitary coalition launched the assault last Sunday after weeks of coalition and Iraqi air strikes.
Progress in Tal Afar was far more rapid than in Mosul, which fell to Iraqi forces only after a gruelling nine-month battle.
Officials have said they hope to announce victory by Eid Al Adha, the Muslim holiday set to start in Iraq on September 2
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