Iraqi forces begin operation to retake town from Islamic State

Belgian special forces soldiers a few miles from the frontline in the village of Abu Ghaddur east of Tal Afar Iraq Sunday Aug. 20 2017

In a televised speech, al-Abadi, dressed in military uniform, announced "the start of an operation to free Tal Afar".

Addressing the militants, the Prime Minister, who is also the head of the country's armed forces, said they have no option but to "surrender or die".

The Tal Afar counter-offensive is expected to be one of the bloodiest as the 1,000-odd estimated Isis fighters have nowhere to flee with the city being encircled by Kurdish and Iraqi forces.

It will be the first test of Iraq's military, particularly the elite US -trained Counterterrorism Service, after it took significant losses during the battle for Mosul.

The ERD was one of several government security forces backed by a US -led coalition that drove IS out of Mosul, the northern city the jihadists seized in 2014 and proclaimed their "capital", in a nine-month campaign that ended in July. The majority population of Tal Afar area are Sunni and Shiite Turkomans, in addition to the minority of Kurds and other minorities. The city was captured in 2014 by IS forces.

Tal Afar is a town located in around 43 miles west of Mosul which was the center of all activities of ISIS, according to reports.

US Army soldiers a few miles from the frontline in the village of Abu Ghaddur east of Tal Afar Iraq 20th Aug 2017

"Prepare yourself, the battle is imminent and the victory is coming", they read. The offensive unites U.S-backed Iraqi forces with Iran-supported.

All branches of the Iraqi security forces will take part in the liberation of Tal Afar: the 9th, 15th and 16th Iraqi army divisions, the counterterrorism Service, the federal police and emergency response division and the Iraqi local police, as well as popular mobilization forces under Abadi's command, task force officials said. "(Fighters) have been using tunnels to move from place to place to avoid air strikes", said 60-year-old Haj Mahmoud, a retired teacher.

The Iraqi military has launched an attack against one of ISIS's last strongholds in the country with the assistance of the US-led coalition against the terrorist organization.

Some 49,000 people have fled the Tal Afar district since April, according to the UN.

He noted that the operation to liberate Tal Afar will not take long, but rather several weeks.




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