BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s prime minister on Thursday declared the
town of Tal Afar “fully liberated” from the Islamic State group
after a nearly two-week operation, the latest blow to the
extremist group which ran nearly a third of the country three
Iraqi troops “eliminated and smashed Daesh terrorists” in
al-Ayadia district, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) northwest of
Tal Afar, where the militants fled last week, Haider al-Abadi
said in a statement. Daesh is the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
With Tal Afar liberated, all of Nineveh province — the first area
ISIS militants captured in a 2014 blitz — “is in the hands of our
brave troops,” al-Abadi said.
“To Daesh criminals we say: Wherever you are we will come to
liberate and you have to choose only death or surrender,” he
Iraqi officials often declare areas liberated before the fighting
has completely ended, and the militants have been known to carry
out surprise counterattacks.
US-backed Iraqis troops launched the operation to retake Tal Afar
early last week, a month after it declared the northern city of
Mosul, its second largest, to be fully liberated. Tal Afar is
about 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Syria’s border and it was
among the last ISIS-held towns in Iraq.
Iraqi forces have driven ISIS from most of Iraq’s major towns and
cities seized by the militants in the summer of 2014, including
Mosul, which was retaken after a grueling nine-month campaign.
ISIS stills control the northern town of Hawija as well as towns
in western Iraq near Syria.