Saudi Arabia hails liberation of Tal Afar from Daesh

Iraq's Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) patrol a road in Tal Afar's Qalea central district during an operation to retake the city from the Daesh group. (AFP)
Updated 28 August 2017

Saudi Arabia hails liberation of Tal Afar from Daesh

JEDDAH/BAGHDAD: Saudi Arabia on Sunday congratulated the government and the people of Iraq for liberating Tal Afar from Daesh terrorists.
The loss of Tal Afar, in northern Iraq between Mosul and the Syrian border, will deprive Daesh of what was once a significant hub for movement between the Syrian and Iraqi components of the self-styled “caliphate” it declared three years ago.
An official source at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reaffirmed Saudi Arabia’s support for Iraq “in all its capacities to combat and eradicate terrorism and extremism,” the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
The Iraqi military earlier said it had “fully liberated” Tal Afar’s town center from Daesh.
Pockets of resistance remain but the announcement brings Iraqi forces a step closer to taking full control of one of the extremists’ last strongholds in Iraq.
The military statement added that troops had captured all of the town’s neighborhoods but were heading to Al-Ayadia district, about 10 km northwest of Tal Afar, to pursue a group of terrorists who fled.
Just a week after authorities announced an offensive to push the terrorists from one of their last major urban strongholds in Iraq, the Joint Operations Command said Iraqi forces held all 29 districts of the city and were pursuing final mopping up operations.
Pro-government fighters could already be seen celebrating, waving Iraqi flags and flashing victory signs as their tanks rolled through the streets.
The offensive comes just weeks after Iraqi forces retook second city Mosul from Daesh, in their biggest victory since the terrorists seized control of large parts of Syria and Iraq in mid-2014.
Much of that territory has since been retaken with support from coalition air strikes, and IS is also facing a major US-backed offensive against its de facto Syrian capital Raqqa.
On Saturday, Iraqi forces took control of the city center and Tal Afar’s Ottoman-era citadel.
Nearby, a huge crater could be seen on Sunday at the base of the city’s main mosque, a testament to the intensity of the air strikes that battered the city.
Surrounding buildings still featured religious slogans written by the jihadists and an IS flag lay upside down on the ground.
Government troops and units of the Hashed Al-Shaabi paramilitary coalition launched the assault after weeks of coalition and Iraqi airstrikes.
Progress in Tal Afar was far more rapid than in Mosul, which fell to Iraqi forces only after a grueling nine-month battle.
Officials have said they hope to announce victory by Eid Al-Adha set to start in Iraq on Sept. 2.
The next target in the area was the town of Al-Ayadieh 15 km north of Tal Afar and strategically located on the road between the city and the Syrian border.
Pro-government forces faced an obstacle course of roads blocked with earth embankments and strategically parked trucks, as well as sniper and mortar fire during the battle for Tal Afar.
Troops also said they discovered a network of underground tunnels used by Daesh to launch attacks behind lines of already conquered territory, or to escape.
Once Tal Afar is retaken, Baghdad is expected to launch a new offensive on Hawija, about 300 km north of the Iraqi capital.
The coalition has announced carrying out strikes near Hawija in recent days, including two that killed Daesh fighters and destroyed a command post.
Daesh is also present in the vast western province of Anbar, where it controls several zones along the border with Syria, including the Al-Qaim area.
Despite its losses in Iraq and Syria, Daesh has continued to claim responsibility for attacks carried out by its members or supporters abroad, including this month’s deadly attacks in Spain and knife attacks in Russia and Brussels.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives in China

Updated 41 min 43 sec ago

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives in China

DUBAI: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in China on Thursday, on the third leg of his Asia tour that started in Pakistan.

At the airport, the crown prince was greeted by a number of Chinese officials, including Khi Li Fung, Deputy Chairman of the Advisory and Political Council of the People's Republic of China, and Chinese Ambassador to the Kingdom Li Hua Xin.

He will meet Chinese President Xi Jin Ping during the official visit.

On Wednesday, the crown prince left India, after talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind.

During his visit, Prince Mohammed said he expects the Kingdom's investments in India to be worth $100 billion in the next two years.

“We expect that the opportunity we are developing in India in many fields will exceed 100 billion dollars over the next two years,” he said.