A fighter from the Hashed Al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization units) walks inside al-Nour neighbourhood in eastern Tal Afar, Iraq, on August 23. Photo: Ahmad al-Rubaye | AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Facing a combined assault in Tal Afar by the Iraqi security forces including brigades of Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary units (PMUs), ISIS militants are withdrawing from some neighborhoods and bringing people along to be used as human shields, Rudaw has learned.
“Commanders of Iraqi Counter-Terrorism (CTS) say that ISIS militants are moving people from the neighborhoods they have lost to districts of Nasr, Qalha and Muhalimin so they can use them as human shields,” Rudaw correspondent Peshawa Bahlawi reported from east of Tal Afar on Thursday.
Iraq’s Joint Operations Command announced on Thursday that 34 villages and areas have been liberated in the area since the offensive commenced on Sunday.
“Divisions in cooperation with the Hashd al-Shaabi are now trying to retake Al-Nour 2, this comes after the managed to retake Al-Nour 1 an hour ago, and advances are quick because ISIS militants are trying to retreat,” Bahlawi detailed, describing seeing large numbers of advancing Iraqi forces and Hashd.
The PMUs later reported through their media that its 2nd Brigade and the 9th Iraqi Armored Division cleared Al-Nour neighborhood in the northeast and were heading towards to judicial center.
Bahlawi added that the US-trained CTS units were also launching a major attack aiming to regain complete control of Tal Afar’s grain silo.
Smoke billows after an IED explodes in Tal Afar. Video: Rudaw
Hashd media also reported its 2nd Brigade and the Army’s 9th Armored Brigade reached the outskirts of the ancient city of Tal Afar — about 100 meters away.
The deepest advances on the fifth day of the offensive occurred from the southern axis, which neared the city center, according to Iraq’s War Media Cell.
Hashd media added that its northwest axis advanced in Al-Wahda district, managing to control the province’s education bureau.
Tal Afar consists of 25 neighborhoods and 15 areas.
Iraq’s Joint Operation Command announced in a statement that because of intelligence from the security directorate, the Iraqi Air Force was targeting a weapons cache at Abu Saad’s farm, killing about 25 militants.
Joint Operations Command Spokesperson Yahya Rasoul detailed during a rare joint press conference in Baghdad with the US-led Global Coalition Spokesperson Col. Ryan Dillon that through the first four days of the Tal Afar offensive 302 militants were killed, 33 car bombs were blown up, six vehicles were blown up, 35 tunnels were destroyed and 15 ISIS positions were destroyed.