Iraqi forces have seized control of almost every Tal Afar, a stronghold of the Islamic state in the north-west of the country, the Iraqi military said on Sunday. After eight days of fighting, the 29 neighborhoods of the Tal Afar city were removed from the militant group, the army said in a statement Sunday.
However, the fighting continued in al-‘Ayadiya, a small area 11 km north-west of the city, where militants who fled the city’s district hid, said military spokesman Iraqi Brigadier General Yahya Rasool. Iraqi forces were waiting to resume the area before declaring a full victory on the offensive, he said.
Tal Afar was the last goal of the war waged by the USA. against the jihadist group after the resumption in July of Mosul, where it said its self-proclaimed caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014.
The offensive on Tal Afar, which is on the supply route between Syria and the former stronghold of the Islamic State of Mosul, began on 20 August. Up to 2,000 militants were expected to defend the city against some 50,000 attackers, according to Iraqi and Western military sources.
Such a rapid collapse of the Islamic state in the city, which was a breeding ground for jihadist groups, confirms the Iraqi army reports that the activists lack the command and control structures west of Mosul.
Residents who fled Tal Afar before the start of the offensive told Reuters that some activists appeared “exhausted” and “exhausted.” Elite forces freed the heart of the city on Saturday and raised the national flag in the Citadel building, the army said. Much of the structure of the Ottoman era was destroyed by militants in 2014.
A Reuters visual team visited the citadel on Sunday and saw signs of heavy damage to much of the structure. “We try to push the militants without doing too much damage,” said a Shiite militia soldier who fought with Iraqi forces who asked not to be identified.
“We’ve only used light weapons.” Iraqi soldiers were seen celebrating the recapture of Tal Afar on Sunday’s counterproductive ES banners from their perches in the city center and taking photographs that mocked the activists. The fight was almost over on Saturday, with occasional rounds of artillery.
There were no signs of civilians in the neighborhoods that Reuters visited on Saturday and Sunday. Thousands of people are believed to have fled weeks before the battle began. The remaining civilians were threatened with death by militants, according to relief organizations and residents who were able to leave.
Tal Afar has experienced cycles of sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites following the US military’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 and has produced some of the largest commanders of the Islamic State.