TEHRAN (Press Shia) – Iraqi forces are about to take full control of Tal Afar, Daesh (ISIL or ISIS)'s stronghold in northwestern Iraq, in a swift campaign against the Takfiri militants, an Iraqi military spokesman said Saturday.
The quick collapse of Daesh in Tal Afar, a breeding ground for extremist groups in Iraq, confirmed Iraqi military reports that the militants lack command and control structures in the areas west of Mosul.
Up to 2,000 militants were believed to be defending Tal Afar when the campaign to take back the city started on Aug. 20. The attacking forces were estimated at 50,000, according to western military sources.
"Tal Afar city is about to fall completely into the hands of our forces, only five percent remains" under Daesh’s control, a military spokesman told Reuters.
"God willing, the remaining part will be liberated soon," Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said earlier at a news conference with his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, and French Defence Minister Florence Parly, in Baghdad.
Tal Afar lies on the supply route between Syria and the former Daesh stronghold of Mosul, 80 km to the east.
The elite Counter Terrorism Service "liberated the citadel neighborhood … and raised the Iraqi flag on top of the citadel building," a statement from the Iraqi joint operations command said.
Much of the Ottoman-era citadel itself was destroyed by the militants at the end of 2014.
Tal Afar, which had a pre-war population of about 200,000, is the latest objective in the war on Daesh following the recapture of Mosul after a nine-month campaign that left much of the city, the biggest in northern Iraq, in ruins.
The fall of Mosul in effect marked the end of the self-proclaimed "caliphate" Daesh declared over parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014. Tal Afar was cut off from the rest of Daesh-held territory in June.