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Iraqi forces close in on Daesh-held Tal Afar

Iraqi forces, backed by Shiite fighters from the Popular Mobilization Forces, advance towards the towards the city of Tal Afar, the main remaining stronghold of the Islamic State group, after the government announced the beginning of an operation to retake it from the jihadists, on Monday. (AFP)
TAL AL-HESSAN, Iraq: Iraqi forces closed in Monday on Tal Afar on the second day of an offensive against the last major bastion of Daesh in the country’s north, seizing several villages around the city.
In the desert plains around Tal Afar, convoys of tanks and armored vehicles could be seen heading for the terrorist-held city, raising huge clouds of dust.
The offensive launched at dawn Sunday comes only weeks after Iraqi forces retook second city Mosul from Daesh and as the extremists also face assaults on their positions in neighboring Syria.
Tal Afar was once a major supply hub between Mosul and the Syrian border and capturing it would be another major blow to Daesh’s self-declared “caliphate” that once controlled large areas straddling Syria and Iraq.
The Iraqi Army, federal police and counter-terrorism forces backed by 20,000 fighters from the Hashed Al-Shaabi paramilitary group launched the offensive on Tal Afar.
They are battling Daesh on three fronts — the west, south and southeast — and commanders have told AFP they expect to tighten the noose on the militants by edging closer to the gates of the city.
The federal police said its forces had retaken five villages on the western front, with its chief Raed Shakir Jawdat saying they were only “a few hundred meters from Al-Kifah,” the nearest western neighborhood of the city.

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