Iraqi forces launch offensive on ISIS-held city Tal Afar

Iraqi forces launch offensive on ISIS-held city Tal Afar”

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's message to the terror group was: "You either surrender or die".

The bid to reclaim Tal Afar comes one month after Iraqi forces, supported by US -led airstrikes, declared victory in Mosul after a grueling nine-month battle that took a heavy toll on Iraqi troops and the hundreds of thousands of civilians that remained in the city during the fight.

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.

About 2,000 battle-hardened militants remain in the city, according to US and Iraqi military commanders.

Meanwhile, Commander of Tal Afar Liberation Operation Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Yarallah stated that security forces have recaptured the villages of Batisha, al-Alam, Khafajah, Upper Halabiya, and Marazif east of Tal Afar, and the villages of Qazal Qiyu and Kasr Mihrab southwest of the city. The majority population of Tal Afar area are Sunni and Shiite Turkomans, in addition to the minority of Kurds and other minorities. Tal Afar had a population of about 200,000 before Isis captured it and had witnessed sectarian clashes even before the arrival of the Isis. The offensive unites U.S-backed Iraqi forces with Iran-supported.

"Prepare yourself, the battle is imminent and the victory is coming, God willing", the leaflets read.

Tal Afar, 70 km west of Mosul, in the direction of Syria torn apart by violence for six years, had been taken by the group of ultra-radical in June 2014 during his meteoric rise at the end of which he had held up to nearly a third of iraqi territory.

Dozens of air strikes from the US-led coalition preceded the attack.

"Intelligence gathered shows clearly that the remaining fighters are mainly foreign and Arab nationals with their families and that means they will fight until the last breath", Colonel Kareem al-Lami told Reuters.

"The city of Tal Afar will be liberated and will join all the liberated cities". The United Nations said more than 30,000 people had already left Tal Afar by early Saturday.

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