Iraqi forces drive ISIS from all but one city, stretches of desert

by WorldTribune Staff, August 31, 2017

Iraq’s military said it has driven Islamic State (ISIS) out of Tal Afar, one of the last cities in Iraq that had been under the terror group’s control.

Iraqi security forces and Shi’ite Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) advance on Tal Afar on Aug. 22. / Reuters

Gen. Abdelamir Yarallah, head of military operations in the region, said federal police and special units had raised the Iraqi flag after having “liberated” the eastern Al-Ayadieh sector of Tal Afar and the nearby village of Qubuq.

The remaining areas under the control of ISIS in Iraq are the city of Hawija, in Kirkuk Province; the western deserts of Anbar Province, including the town of Qaim, near the Syrian border; and half of the town of Shirqat, in Salahuddin Province.

Iraqi military leaders have said that the next target is Hawija, although that fight could be complicated by a referendum on independence that Iraq’s Kurds are planning to hold in September, The New York Times reported.

Hawija is near Kirkuk, a city long divided by Arabs and Kurds that was taken over by Kurdish forces in 2014, after ISIS swept through northern and central Iraq.

Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the top American military commander in Iraq, said in a statement on Aug. 31 that, with the “historic liberation of Mosul and now a swift and decisive victory in Tal Afar,” the Iraqi security forces had “shown, once again, they are an increasingly capable force that can protect the Iraqi people, defeat ISIS within Iraq and secure the country’s borders.”

Lt. Gen. Sami al-Aridhi, a top commander in Iraq’s counterterrorism forces, said that many ISIS jihadists had managed to escape, but not due to any agreement with the security forces. Recent rumors emerged that a deal had been struck to allow ISIS jihadists to flee.

Aridhi said that the victory had come quickly largely because, in contrast to Mosul, there were few civilians left in Tal Afar, allowing the Iraqi security forces to bring more destructive firepower to bear.

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