Iraqi forces set to recapture Tal Afar

Iraq : Forces advance towards heart of IS-held bastion

Thousands of civilians are estimated to have been killed in the nine-month fight.

They encountered trucks parked across roads with earthen embankments aimed at stopping them, as well as sniper fire from rooftops and mortar shelling.

The US-led coalition fighting IS in Iraq and Syria welcomed the start of the battle for Tal Afar and pledged support to Iraqi forces involved.

He added that people in the area had reportedly been enduring very difficult conditions for months, with a lack of food, clean water and electricity.

Elite forces took control of the heart of the city on Saturday, and raised the national flag on top of the citadel building, the military said. On Tuesday, the army and counter-terrorism units broke into Tal Afar from the east and south.

The government declared the launch of Tal Afar operations on Aug. 20.

In the whole Tal Afar region, "1,155 square kilometres of 1,655 square kilometres, or 70 percent of the area, have been taken" the JOC said. Up to 2,000 militants were believed to be defending the city, according to Iraqi and western military sources. For at least 16 of the Iraqi graves, officials do not even guess the number of dead.

Iraqi armed forces have pushed out Daesh from Tal Afar city while some parts of the district bearing the same name remain under the terrorist group's control, a senior army official said Sunday.

"The siege worked in preventing the enemy from getting all the materials they needed to build explosives", said Maj.

Iraqi military forces have advanced to the center of the Islamic State-held town of Tal Afar after securing several surrounding neighborhoods, according to a military statement.

France will provide a total of 430 million euros (512.7 U.S. dollars) in loan to Iraq in 2017, the French foreign ministry announced in a press release on Saturday, APA reports quoting Xinhua. "Prepare yourself, the battle is imminent and the victory is coming, God willing", the leaflets read.

IS jihadists in June 2014 overran Tal Afar, a Shiite enclave in the predominantly Sunni province of Nineveh.

The spiritual leader of Iraq's Shia majority has called on doctors to help civilians fleeing clashes.

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