Iraq launches Tal Afar offensive

Iraqi jets bomb Islamic State stronghold ahead of ground assault

"We have information about the presence of foreigners within Daesh ranks in Tal Afar, but we do not know their identity", Asadi pointed out.

As each time the assault is launched by the iraqi forces, supported by the global coalition, anti-jihadists, M. Abadi, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, spoke at the television, dressed in a military uniform black. Before the Prime Ministers speech, leaflets with the words "The battle is imminent and the victory is coming, God willing" were dropped in Tal Afar by Iraqi air force.

A handout picture released by the Iraqi Federal Police on August 15, 2017, shows Iraqi armoured units headed for the town of Tal Afar, the main remaining Daesh stronghold in the northern part of the country.

Last month, Iraqi forces dealt a powerful blow against Islamic State in Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq and the crown jewel of the group's so-called caliphate. The US-led coalition fighting IS in Iraq and Syria welcomed the start of the offensive and pledged support to Iraqi forces involved.

Despite intelligence indicating that the militants are low on supplies after months of aerial bombardments, retaking the city, which had a population of 200,000 is expected to be challenging.

Iraqi forces have driven IS from most of the major towns and cities seized by the militants in the summer of 2014, including Mosul, which was retaken after a gruelling nine-month campaign.

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"[Fighters] have been using tunnels to move from place to place to avoid air strikes", said 60-year-old Haj Mahmoud, a retired teacher.

Grande described the situation inside Tal Afar as "very tough", because food and water are running out, and people lack the basic necessities to survive, according to the statement by the United Nations office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Despite the significant deployment of Hashd al-Shaabi fighters in the Tal Afar campaign, the US-led anti-IS coalition appear to back their involvement.

The Shi'ite Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) confirmed they are also taking part in the battle.

Today, the local officials, many now outside of the city, say that they do not know the exact number of civilians who are still there, because as in the other bastions of the AR, the inhabitants are cut off from any contact with the outside world.

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