“Our brave Armed Forces have liberated Tal Afar and the Iraqi flag is once again flying high in Nineveh province,” Al-Abadi said in a televised address. “I salute our martyrs, our injured and their families whose sacrifices have made this and other victories possible. Nineveh Province is liberated.”
The campaign began on August 20 after Iraqi and Kurdish forces had surrounded much of the city in June, but the resistance from ISIS fighters was far less intense than expected. More than 90 percent of the city was liberated within a week and the city center was retaken on Saturday.
It was not immediately known how many people had been killed during the 11-day military operation, which was supported by the U.S.-led coalition.
“Following their historic liberation of Mosul and now a swift and decisive victory in Tal Afar, the [Iraqi Security Forces] have 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,” said Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of U.S. and Coalition forces in Iraq and Syria.
Tal Afar, which is west of Mosul and about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the border with Syria, sits along a major road that served as a key supply route for ISIS. The city, along with towns in the area, was the group’s last major stronghold in Iraq since the liberation of Mosul in early July.
With the liberation of both Tal Afar and Mosul, the Islamic State has lost all of its territory in Nineveh Province. The group, however, continues to hold on to territory in western Anbar province as well as the town of Hawija, which is expected to be the next target for Iraqi security forces.
Previously home to about 200,000 people, most of Tal Afar’s residents were able to flee after ISIS seized control of the city in June 2014. Iraqi officials estimated that approximately 50,000 civilians remained trapped in the city, in addition to about 1,000 ISIS fighters.
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