Iraqi forces close in on IS-held town west of Mosul

HALABIYAH, Iraq – Iraqi forces have made significant progress in closing in on the Islamic State-held town of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, the US-led coalition and a doorman said on Monday. -word of the Iraqi army.

US Army Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the coalition, told The Associated Press that Iraqi forces had recaptured some 250 square kilometers (95 square miles) from the extremist group since the operation began on Sunday. morning, although they have not yet entered the city itself. .

“As we move into urban areas – as we’ve seen in Mosul and Raqqa – that’s where we’ll see the pace slow down, that’s where (IS) has placed its defences,” he said. he declares.

Dozens of civilians fled the area. Sadia Sajet, from Tal Afar, said she walked for more than a day to cross the frontline and reach the Iraqi forces.

“We spent the night by the river. There were a lot of corpses there. The smell was horrible,” she said. “We slept there and then started walking again at four in the morning. And we walked until we got here.

Sajet said two other women fleeing with her died of exhaustion attempting to make the journey.

Joint Military Command spokesman Brig. General Yahya Rasool said troops had recaptured six villages located within a few kilometers of Tal Afar’s urban areas. He said the militants had deployed suicide car bombs, roadside bombs and mortars to slow the advancing troops.

Citing intelligence, Rasool put the number of IS militants inside the city at around 2,000 fighters.

US-backed Iraqi forces ousted IS from Mosul last month after a grueling nine-month campaign to retake the country’s second-largest city. US-allied forces are currently battling ISIS in the Syrian city of Raqqa, the extremists’ de facto capital.

Dillon said most of the territory recaptured in the operation was in the Kisik junction area to the east of the town.

Tal Afar, about 150 kilometers (93 miles) east of the Syrian border, lies in one of the last pockets of ISIS-held territory in Iraq.

Some 49,000 people have fled Tal Afar district since April, according to the United Nations, raising fears that the displaced could worsen the humanitarian crisis that erupted during the Mosul operation. Nearly a million people remain displaced by the campaign to retake Mosul.

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