Iraq FM says security forces have retaken 70 percent of IS holdout town Tal Afar
Iraq has said that its military has retaken 70 percent of the Islamic State group holdout town of Tal Afar, a day after troops drove militants out of the city's historic citadel.
Iraq's foreign minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari made the announcement on Saturday at a news conference with his French counterpart.
Tal Afar, which sits on a strategic route between IS-controlled territories in Syria and Mosul, is about 150 kilometres from Syria's border and it's among the last IS-held towns in Iraq.
The announcement comes a day after Iraqi forces ousted IS from central Tal Afar and its historic citadel, leaving them poised to fully recapture one of the last IS urban strongholds in the country.
The advance, less than a week into an assault on the strategic city, comes after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory in July over the jihadists in Iraq's second city Mosul, where IS declared its "caliphate" in 2014.
"Units of the Counter-Terrorism Service liberated the Citadel and Basatin districts and raised the Iraqi flag on top of the citadel," operation commander General Abdulamir Yarallah said in a statement.
Progress in Tal Afar has been far more rapid than in Mosul, which only fell to Iraqi forces after a gruelling nine-month battle.
Officials have said they hope to announce victory in Tal Afar by Eid al-Adha, the Muslim holiday set to start in Iraq on September 2.
Until its takeover by IS, Tal Afar was largely populated by Shia Turkmen, whose beliefs are anathema to the Sunni hardliners of IS.
Directly targeted by the jihadists, most of the city's 200,000-strong population fled.
Some members of Tal Afar's Sunni minority joined the jihadists' ranks, forming an IS contingent with a particular reputation for violence.
Pro-government forces faced an obstacle course of roads blocked with earth embankments and strategically-parked trucks, as well as sniper fire and mortar shelling.
Troops also said they discovered a network of underground tunnels used by the jihadists to launch attacks behind lines of already conquered territory, or to escape.