Iraqi troops reach outskirts of Daesh-held Tal Afar

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 22.08.2017 13:13
Updated 22.08.2017 21:34
Shiite Hashd Al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces - PMF) militia with Iraqi army forces gather on the outskirts of Tal Afar, Iraq, Aug. 20, 2017. (Reuters Photo)
Shiite Hashd Al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces - PMF) militia with Iraqi army forces gather on the outskirts of Tal Afar, Iraq, Aug. 20, 2017. (Reuters Photo)

Iraqi forces began to advance on the center of the northwestern city of Tal Afar on Tuesday as part of a major offensive to recapture the predominantly Turkmen city from Daesh terrorist group, according to Iraqi security officers.

Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir Rasheed Yar Allah, who commands the operation, says in a statement on Tuesday that the special forces troops on Tuesday entered the al-Kifah neighborhood on the southwest edge of town. Yar Allah didn't give more details.

Brig. Gen. Haider Fadhil, of the Iraqi special forces, told The Associated Press that Daesh fighters fired rockets, sent suicide car bombers and used roadside bombs.

Army and counter terrorism units broke into the city from the eastern and southern sides, according to statements from the Iraqi joint operations command.

"Special forces, backed by the Hashd Shaabi fighters, began to storm the western entrance of Tal Afar center," Federal Police First Lt. Bahaa al-Meyahi told Anadolu Agency.

Army Major Sattar Hadi said the offensive targets Al-Jazeera district southeast of the city.

Tuesday's operation came as U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrived in Baghdad for talks with Iraqi officials on the anti-Daesh war.

On Monday, an Iraqi military source said U.S. forces were taking part in the ongoing military operation to dislodge Daesh militants from Tal Afar.

More than 5,000 U.S. troops are currently participating in the ongoing fight against Daesh in Iraq, according to the Pentagon.

The Iraqi government says U.S. soldiers are not taking part in the fighting and are only collecting and sharing intelligence and providing Iraq with logistics support.

On Sunday, the Iraqi army launched a widely-anticipated offensive to recapture Tal Afar, which was captured by Daesh in mid-2014 along with vast swathes of territory in northern and western Iraq.

The operation came a month after Iraq declared victory over Daesh in Mosul, the country's second largest city.

Tal Afar, about 150 kilometers (93 miles) east of the Syrian border, is in one of the last pockets of Daesh-held territory in Iraq.

The UN estimates that between 10,000 and 40,000 civilians are still living in Tal Afar and surrounding areas.

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