Iraqi Forces Capture Tal Afar Center From Islamic State

Iraqi forces say they have recaptured most of the northwestern Iraqi city of Tal Afar from Islamic State, including its center and raised the flag atop of its Ottoman-era citadel.

“Units of the Counter-terrorism Service liberated the Citadel and Basatin districts and raised the Iraqi flag on top of the citadel,” the Iraqi joint operations command said in a statement.

“Seventy percent of the city has been liberated…. God willing, the remaining part will be liberated soon,” Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said at a news conference with his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, and French Defense Minister Florence Parly in Baghdad.

Officials have said they hope to establish total control in Tal Afar by Eid al-Adha, the Muslim holiday which starts in Iraq on September 2.

The offensive on Tal Afar, which lies between Syria and 80 km west of the former Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, began on August 20.

According to U.S. and Iraqi military commanders, up to 2,000 militants remain in Tal Afar. The U.S. military says that between 10,000 and 20,000 civilians out of a population of 200,000 have remained in the city.

Aid organizations have reported those remaining are threatened with death by the jihadists, who have kept a tight grip on Tal Afar since 2014.

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