Iraq Starts Operation to Liberate Tal Afar from ISIS

Iraqi jets bomb Islamic State stronghold ahead of ground assault

"I say to Daesh, you have no choice but to surrender or die", Adabi said in a pre-dawn televised address, wearing his preferred black military fatigues announcing the operation early on Sunday.

In July, al-Abadi, who is also commander-in-chief of Iraq's armed forces, officially declared victory over Islamic State in Mosul.

Before Islamic State militants claimed it in June 2014, Tal Afar was an ethnically diverse town where Shiites and Sunnis lived.

According to information received by Sputnik from sources in the Iraqi army, the USA military is now stationed in vicinity of the city of Tal Afar, preparing for the upcoming battle. Tal Afar has been in a besieged position since the operation to liberate Mosul. But parts of Iraq and Syria remain under its control, especially in border areas.

Iraqi police have been photographed in the Old City of Mosul celebrating with a captured ISIS flag as their part in the battle to reclaim the city is completed.

Authorities have accused the approximately 1,000 jihadists in the city of using civilians as human shields during Iraqi and coalition air strikes earlier this week in preparation for the ground assault.

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"The [anti-IS] coalition is strong, and fully committed to supporting our Iraqi partners until [IS] is defeated and the Iraqi people are free".

Coalition forces estimate between 50,000 and 100,000 civilians remain in and around Tal Afar.

The Iraqi army, commandos of the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), federal police, paramilitary Hashd Shaabi units and local police are pushing in the rural areas to capture dozens of villages and two districts surrounding the IS stronghold in Tal Afar, some 70 km west of Mosul, Brigadier Mohammed al-Jubouri from the Joint Operations Command told Xinhua.

Aid groups have warned the operation could trigger a humanitarian crisis as a stepped up campaign of airstrikes and troop buildup has already forced tens of thousands to flee, according to the United Nations.

Wednesday, Kurdish Peshmerga troops arrested 30 IS militants who officials said attempted to escape Tal Afar - which was once the home of 200,000 people - by traveling through Peshmerga-held territory.

Islamic State claimed to have successfully targeted several vehicles belonging to Shia militia groups to the east and west of Tal Afar, in a statement published on the group's Amaq news agency on Sunday.

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