Iraqi forces take 'full control' of Tal Afar from IS after week-long battle
The Iraqi military has announced it has "fully liberated" the city of Tal Afar from the Islamic State group, dealing another blow to the extremists.
General Abdel Amir Rasheed Yar Allah, who commands the Tal Afar operation, said on Sunday that Iraqi forces had taken full control one of IS' last strongholds in the country.
"The district of Tal Afar has been completely liberated and the Joint Operations Forces have moved on to liberate al-Ayadieh and surrounding areas," Yar Allah said.
A military source told The New Arab that military reinforcements arrived in the city on Sunday morning and that troops are currently combing retaken ground for explosives and hold out extremists.
He added that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi will formally announce the city's recapture late tomorrow.
The offensive comes just weeks after Iraqi forces retook second city Mosul from IS, in their biggest victory since the jihadists 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.
The loss of Tal Afar, in northern Iraq - between Mosul and the Syrian border - will deprive IS 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.
On Saturday, Iraqi forces took control of the city centre 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 raids 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 Hashd al-Shaabi [Popular Mobilisation Forces] paramilitary coalition launched the assault last Sunday after weeks of coalition and Iraqi air strikes.
Progress in Tal Afar was far more rapid than in Mosul, which fell to Iraqi forces only after a gruelling nine-month battle.
The next target in the area was the town of al-Ayadieh 15 kilometres north of Tal Afar and strategically located on the road between the city and the Syrian border.