Iraqi forces capture villages in IS-held Tal Afar

Iraqi forces capture villages in IS-held Tal Afar
Iraqi government forces made fresh assault on one of the Islamic State group's last strongholds in the country.
2 min read
21 August, 2017
Iraqi government forces and loyalist militias began their assault on Sunday [AFP]

Iraqi government forces have taken control of five villages around the Islamic State group-held town of Tal Afar on Monday, in a major offensive on one of the militants' last strongholds in Iraq.

The Iraqi army seized control of Tal Rihal, Jabbara, Hussein Idris, al-Mulla and al-Majeed villages, said Lt. Gen. Abdul Amir Yarallah from the Joint Operations Command in a statement.

In earlier report, Lieutenant Colonel Ribwar claimed government troops had captured six villages from IS.

The fresh assault on Tal Afar, which has been held by the IS group since 2014, was announced on Sunday by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. 

It is thought that around 2,000 IS militants are positioned in the town, which has been one of the extremists' most important strongholds in Niniveh province, northern Iraq.

Since the fall of Mosul last month, Tal Afar became one of the last major urban areas in Iraq still under IS control.

An Iraqi army counter-offensive against IS in northern Iraq has led to hundreds of thousands of displaced, as mostly Sunni civilians flee air raids, shelling, and reprisals.

IS has also used civilians as human shields to slow the advance of the army.

The United Nations warned on Sunday that an escalation in violence around Tal Afar will lead to further displacement of people in the area.

UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Lisa Grande, said that the "very tough" situation in Tal Afar, where food and water is scarce, has already caused over 30,000 people to flee.

The presence of Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation Forces) militias in the assault has also caused concern among human rights groups about potential reprisals by fighters against civilians and captives.