World

Iraq starts offensive to 
retake Tal Afar city from ISIS

BAGHDAD/ERBIL, IRAQ: Iraqi security forces launched an offensive to take back the city of Tal Afar yesterday, their next objective in the US-backed campaign to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said.

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

A long-time stronghold of hardline Sunni Muslim insurgents, Tal Afar - which is 80km west of the city of Mosul - has produced some of ISIS' most senior commanders.

The city was cut off from the rest of ISIS-held territory in June.

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

Hours before Mr Abadi's announcement, the Iraqi air force dropped leaflets over the city telling the population to take precautions.

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

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

They are expected to put up a tough fight, even though intelligence from inside the city indicates they have been exhausted by months of combat, aerial bombardments and the lack of fresh supplies. - REUTERS

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