UPDATED: Iraqi forces launch military operation to liberate Tal Afar - West Mosul
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) - The Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi, on Sunday early morning announced a large-scale military operation to retake the town of Tal Afar from the Islamic State (IS), located 60 kilometers west of Mosul.
Before the operation begun, Iraqi warplanes dropped hundreds of thousands of leaflets on Tal Afar containing instructions for civilians in the area.
Abadi stated that IS militants have no choice but to either surrender to the Iraqi forces, or die.
The jihadist group occupied the town in the mid-2014. It has been one of the militants' more strategic strongholds over the past three years due to its proximity to the Syrian border.
Over 40,000 Iraqi soldiers are participating in the military operation to retake Tal Afar, according to the Iraqi army press office.
The forces involved in the offensive are the Iraqi army, the federal police, the counter-terrorism units, and the Hashd al-Shaabi Shia militia, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).
About 2,000 IS militants are believed to be in the town of Tal Afar, according to an Iraqi military commander. Iraqi warplanes are heavily shelling IS bases in Tal Afar as security forces advance on the ground.
In the first phase of the operation, federal police forces freed the al-Ibra area around Tal Afar and pushed further west of the town into the Saad, Zahra, and Wahda areas, the Iraqi army press office announced early Sunday morning.
The operation is expected to continue for a few weeks, taking the geography, demography, and size of the area compared to the city of Mosul in consideration.
Editing by G.H. Renaud