Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the commander-in-chief of the Iraqi armed forces, announces the launch of Tal Afar operation to drive ISIS out on August 20, 2017. Photo: PM media office
United Nations urges protection of civilians during Tal Afar operations
Lise Grande, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, has highlighted the humanitarian challenges facing the tens of thousands of people fleeing Tal Afar after the announcement of operations to retake the town from ISIS have commenced.
“More than 30,000 people have already fled the district, “Grande said. “Families are trekking for 10 to 20 hours in extreme heat to reach mustering points. They are arriving exhausted and dehydrated.”
Grande explained, “We don’t know how many civilians are still in the areas where fighting is occurring, but we are preparing for thousands more to flee in coming days and weeks."
The statement urged that everything has to be done by all parties in the conflict to avoid civilian casualties and ensure that people have assistance they are entitled to under international humanitarian law.
“Nothing is more important than protecting civilians during the conflict,” said Grande. “We are deeply worried about the extreme risks that families are facing.”
Iraqi security forces advance around Tal Afar
Rudaw footage shows today's advances in areas around the primarily Turkmen city of Tal Afar west of Mosul.
Video released by local Arab media showed hundreds of people
fleeing the area in pickup trucks and other vehicles.
Many of the men were unshaven with many of the women and
children appeared scrawny.
Global Coalition ‘welcomes’ Abadi’s announcement of Tal Afar ops
The US-led global Coalition against ISIS acknowledged the beginning of the Tal Afar offensive in a statement on Sunday afternoon, stating it will provide "equipment, training, intelligence, precision fires and combat advice."
US Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of US and Coalition forces in Iraq and Syria, said they "welcome" the announcement by Abadi "to liberate Tal Afar and the remainder of Nineveh province and northern Iraq from the clutches of Daesh," using a different term for ISIS.
The statement added that under the command of Abadi, all branches of the Iraqi Security Forces will take part in the liberation of Tal Afar - the 9th, 15th and 16th Iraqi Army Divisions, the Counter Terrorism Service, the Federal Police and Emergency Response Division, Iraqi Local Police as well as Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF/PMUs).
The Coalition estimates that "approximately 10,000-50,000 civilians remain in and around Tal Afar."
US officials have previously said they do not work with the Hashd al-Shaabi PMF.
"The Coalition will continue to help the Government and Security Forces to liberate the Iraqi people and defeat ISIS through five means - by providing equipment, training, intelligence, precision fires and combat advice," read Sunday's statement.
Hashd recaptures village, surrounds another west of Tal Afar
The mainly-Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary units have announced the liberation of Tal al-Sabban village, west of Tal Afar. Hashd stated it was in cooperation with the Iraqi security forces without giving further details.
Earlier in the day, the Federal Police said they recaptured another village, also west of the city.
Meanwhile, the Hashd has said they have Ibra al-Shimaliya village surrounded in preparation to storm it.
Aamaq News Agency of the ISIS group also reported clashes in Jabbara village, west of the Turkmen city, claiming inflicted damage on the advancing forces.
Federal Police advance from west of Tal Afar
Iraqi Federal Police, backed by Iraqi helicopters, has claimed that it recaptured al-Ibrah al-Saghira on Sunday morning, making it the first area to come under the Iraqi control since they launched the operation to recapture the Turkmen city.
Gen. Raed Shaker Jawdat, commander of the Federal Police, said in a statement that their forces continue to advance west of Tal Afar towards al-Sa’ad, al-Zahra, and al-Wahda.
Iraqi forces bomb first ISIS defensive lines
Hashd al-Shaabi has announced that their forces are advancing through three fronts southwest of Tal Afar, adding that their artillery and also Iraqi helicopters are pounding the first ISIS defensive lines.
Iraq’s Joint Command has reiterated on Sunday morning that the US-trained Counter Terrorism Service (CTS), the Federal Police, the Rapid Response Force, the Iraqi Army, and Hashd al-Shaabi are taking part in the operation.
Lt. Gen. Abdulamir Rashid Yarallah who commanded Nineveh Operations until the liberation of Mosul in July, is now titled the commander of the ‘We are Coming Tal Afar’ operation.
The country’s War Media Cell urged all citizens on Saturday in the areas around Tal Afar to tune their radios to 104.5 FM in order to receive information.
An estimated 50,000 people are still believed to be trapped in the city of Tal Afar.
Turkey, which considers Tal Afar a Turkmen city, is opposed to the Hashd forces entering the city.
The Hashd, which says it has an armed force of over 100,000 fighters, began its offensive southwest and west of Mosul on October 29, almost two weeks after the start of the Mosul operation by the Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
Mosul was declared liberated on June 10 after a fierce nine-month battle between Iraqi security forces (ISF) and ISIS in the city with Hashd and Peshmerga securing outlying towns and areas.
Iraqi PM announces operation to retake Turkmen city of Tal Afar from ISIS
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - In the early hours of Sunday Iraqi Prime Minister has commenced operations by security forces to retake the city of Tal Afar.
"As we announce the start of operations to liberate Tal Afar, we salute the heroic Iraqi forces who fight to bring victory, freedom and peace," Abadi stated in a tweet early Sunday morning.
"Sons of our great nation, you will witness another promise being achieved. The city of Tal Afar will be liberated and will join all other liberated cities," PM Abadi said as he addressed the Iraqi nation.
"My message to Daesh: You have no option, you either surrender or die," he continued using a different name for ISIS.
Hours prior to Abadi's announcement, the US Special Presidential Envoy to the global coalition to defeat ISIS tweeted that he had met with Abadi.
"In Baghdad tonight to consult with PM Abadi and other Iraqi leaders on upcoming efforts to destroy ISIS in its last few pockets in Iraq," wrote SPE Brett McGurk.
It has been six weeks since Abadi declared Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, liberated from ISIS.
This is a developing story...