Iraqi forces start offensive to take back IS-held city of Tal Afar

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 19, 2017 8:38 PM

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi security forces launched on Sunday an offensive to take back the city of Tal Afar, their next objective in the U.S.-backed campaign to defeat Islamic State militants, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said.

"You either surrender, or die," Abadi said in a televised speech announcing the offensive, addressing the militants.

A longtime stronghold of hardline Sunni insurgents, Tal Afar, 50 miles (80 km) west of Mosul, was cut off from the rest of the Islamic State-held territory in June.

The city is surrounded by Iraqi government troops and Shi'ite volunteers in the south, and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in the north.

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

Islamic State's self-proclaimed "caliphate" effectively collapsed last month, when U.S.-backed Iraqi forces completed the takeover of the militants' capital in Iraq, Mosul, after a nine-month campaign

(Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)