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.