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Iraq says 90 percent of Tal Afar retaken from IS

Iraq says 90 percent of Tal Afar retaken from IS”

Iraqi forces have retaken nearly all of Tal Afar, Islamic State's stronghold in the country's northwest, the Iraqi military said on Sunday.

Jawdat noted that federal police forces found the prison during a sweep in the al-Saad neighborhood.

Iraqi soldiers were seen celebrating Tal Afar's recapture on Sunday, taking down IS flags from their perches in the city center and taking pictures mocking the militants.

The advance, less than a week into an assault on the strategic city, comes after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory in July over the jihadists in Iraq's second city Mosul, where IS declared its "caliphate" in 2014.

IS resistance in Tal Afar has been nearly non-existent, sparking concerns that the hundreds of militants believed to have been in the town have relocated, possibly with Yezidis (Ezidis) they hold captive.

In the whole Tal Afar region, "1,155 square kilometres (445 square miles) of 1,655 square kilometres (640 square miles), or 70 percent of the area, have been taken" the JOC said late on Saturday.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Islamic State (IS) militant group, in most cases, is responsible for such attacks, targeting areas where crowds of people gather, including markets, cafes and mosques across Iraq. Officials have said they hope to announce victory by Eid al-Adha, the Muslim holiday set to start in Iraq on Sept 2.

Most of the city's 200,000-strong population fled after IS seized it.

Until its takeover by IS, Tal Afar was largely populated by Shia Turkmen, whose beliefs are considered heretical by the Sunni jihadists of IS.

Pro-government forces faced an obstacle course of roads blocked with earth embankments and strategically parked trucks, as well as sniper fire and mortar shelling.

Residents who fled Tal Afar days before the start of the offensive told Reuters some of the militants looked "exhausted" and "depleted". Much of the Ottoman-era structure was destroyed by the militants in 2014.

The coalition has announced carrying out strikes near Hawija in recent days, including two that killed IS fighters and destroyed a command post.

Militants still control the northern town of Hawija as well as Qaim, Rawa and Ana, in western Iraq near the Syrian border.

IS still controls large areas in Syria and a handful of towns in Iraq.



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