News Worms
News Worms

Iraqi forces make gains in Islamic State stronghold of Tal Afar

Iraqi forces make gains in Islamic State stronghold of Tal Afar

With the offensive in Tal Afar, the High Commissioner of the United Nations for refugees (UNHCR) said it feared the exodus "of thousands" of civilians.

Also, the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights said dozens of civilians have died in two days of intense US -led strikes on Syria's IS stronghold of Raqqa, as fighting to retake the Syrian city from jihadists nears its densely populated centre.

Iraqi forces on Tuesday recaptured from the Islamic State group the first three districts of jihadist bastion Tal Afar as the Pentagon chief visited Baghdad in a show of support.

Brigadier General Haider Fadhil, of Iraq's special forces, said the troops did not face tough resistance from IS fighters, though they did fire rockets, sent suicide bombers and used roadside bombs.

Iraqi troops launched an offensive Sunday to recapture Tal Afar, once a key Daesh supply hub between Mosul and the Syrian border to the west. 1500 families have arrived in a transit camp these last few days, and preparations are underway to accommodate up to 22 000 people fleeing Tal Afar, he said.

The UN's refugee agency UNHCR said it had received some 9,000 people at the Hamman Al Alil transit centre over the past week.

"There has been no military in the world's history that has paid more attention to limiting civilian casualties and the deaths of innocents on the battlefield than the coalition military, here in the last years, when precision gave us options that we never had before in history", Mattis said. He predicted the battle for Tall Afar, which is just one-tenth the size of Mosul, will take about four months.

Mattis then left for Erbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdish semi-autonomous region, where he is scheduled to hold a meeting with President Massoud Barzani.

Michael Knights, Iraq analyst at the nonpartisan Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said Iraqi security forces are experienced in urban combat but exhausted after their hard-won victory in Mosul.

"The US supports the maintenance of Iraq's unity and rejects any action aimed at dividing or destabilizing it", the statement quoted Mattis as saying. He added another force is advancing into the outskirts of Mualimeen neighborhood.

Barzani has so far resisted global pressure to delay the referendum.

White House envoy to the anti-IS coalition, Brett McGurk, said the battle for Tal Afar was "going well" but that a referendum on Kurdish independence would be "potentially catastrophic to the counter-ISIS campaign".


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