IS stronghold Tal Afar about to fall

Iraqi government forces broke through ISIL lines inside Tal Afar on Friday and reached the old city centre and the neighbourhood around the Ottoman-era citadel, the military said.

The commander of the Tal Afar operation, Abdulamir Yarallah, said Saturday 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. Clashes are ongoing with IS militants, he said.

The call during the Friday sermon delivered by Sistani's representative Sheikh Abdulmehdi al-Karbalai, from the holy city of Karbala comes after the operation to retake Tal Afar began last week.

Tal Afar was cut off from the rest of IS-held territory in June and the campaign to recapture it started on August 20, when up to 2,000 militants were believed to be defending it against around 50,000 attackers, according to western military sources.

Tal Afar has served as a key ISIS route between Iraq and Syria since 2014 and is the last major centre in northwestern Iraq still controlled by the terrorist group.

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Several villages north of Tal Afar have yet to be retaken, the statement said.

Progress there has been far more rapid than in Mosul, Iraq's second city, which fell to Iraqi forces in July after a gruelling nine-month battle.

Those who flee through desert areas face soaring temperatures for long periods, putting them at risk of dehydration, said Viren Falcao of the Danish Refugee Council. It is located about 150 kilometers from the Syria border.

Ibrahim al-Jaafari made the announcement at a news conference with his French counterpart on Saturday.


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