Civilians Flee Iraqi City As Government Forces Move In On IS

"I am saying to Daesh that there's no choice other than to leave or be killed", Abadi said in a televised speech announcing the offensive, addressing the militants.

PM Haider al-Abadi announces ground operation to retake the northern city, telling ISIL fighters "surrender, or die".

"In the early hours of the day, the rifles and the flags have turned to their targets", declared in a press release Ahmed al-Assadi, the spokesman for the Hachd, which surrounds the months since, Tal Afar, to the east, north and west, the cutting of Mosul as Syria.

The Iraqi federal police has recaptured three villages in the west of Tel Afar from the Islamic State terror organisation as an offensive that was launched on Sunday began to deliver results. The city was captured in 2014 by IS forces. They are expected to put up a tough fight, even though intelligence from inside the city indicates they have been exhausted by months of combat, aerial bombardments, and by the lack of fresh supplies.

IS's self-proclaimed "caliphate" in effect collapsed last month, when US-backed Iraqi forces completed the takeover of the militants' capital in Iraq - Mosul - after a nine-month campaign.

"The Iraqi Security Forces' operation to liberate Tal Afar is another important fight that must be won to ensure the country and its citizens are finally free of [IS]", said US Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of the anti-IS coalition.

Hashd al-Shaabi [Popular Mobilisation Forces] commanders said fighters had taken key hills surrounding the IS bastion, while others advanced into the town from the south.

"Following their historic victory in Mosul, the [Iraqi security forces] have proven themselves a capable, formidable and increasingly professional force, and they are well-prepared to deliver another defeat to ISIS in Tal Afar", coalition officials said in a statement.

Dozens of air strikes from the US-led coalition preceded the attack.

Aid groups have warned the operation could trigger a humanitarian crisis as a stepped up campaign of airstrikes and troop buildup has already forced tens of thousands to flee, according to the United Nations.

  • Rogelio Becker