Iraqi forces flash the sign for victory as they advance towards the al-Ayadieh area north of Tal Afar on Thursday. Photo: Ahmad al-Rubaye | AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared the entire liberation of Nineveh province from ISIS, after the hills of a Tal Afar sub-district were retaken on Thursday morning.
The victory has been completed and the entire province of Nineveh has been retaken into the hands of [Iraq's] heroic forces, read a statement from Abadi on Thursday.
Abadi thanked all forces involved including the Army, Federal Police, Counter-Terrorism, Rapid Response, and the Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary units.
He also tweeted that the Iraqi flag is again flying high in the province.
The global coalition issued a statement congratulating Iraqi security forces (ISF) on the victory.
"Following their historic liberation of Mosul and now a swift and decisive victory in Tal Afar, the ISF 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 coalition commander Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend. "This is yet another significant achievement for the Iraqi Security Forces and the government and people of Iraq."
The coalition warned that hard work still lay ahead to clear the Tal Afar of explosives and “eliminate any remaining ISIS holdouts so they do not threaten the security of Tal Afar in the future.”
Rudaw correspondent Karwan Ali reported from Tal Afar that earlier this morning the Iraqi armed forces reached ISIS’ last controlled territory; the heights of Qasab al-Raai, west of liberated al-A’ayaziyah sub-district in Tal Afar. The village was considered to be ISIS’ last pocket.
The militants were surrounded by the Iraqi joint forces including the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi with 250 villagers able to reach the sanctuary of the Kurdish Peshmerga frontlines in the area.
The Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi announced that Iraqi armed forces liberated the sub-district of al-A’ayaziyah late on Wednesday night.
Along with the sub-district, 21 villages and the al-Sasan mountainous range were also liberated from the group after 72 hours of continued fight against the group, from the air and on the ground.
The Iraqi army announced on Sunday that their forces were in full control of Tal Afar city, just eight days after the operation to retake the town from ISIS began.
The 'We are Coming Tal Afar' operation commenced on August 20, taking 11 days to clear the area of ISIS militants.
Tal Afar served as a key ISIS route between Iraq and Syria since 2014 and was the last major center in northwestern Iraq still controlled by the terrorist group.
ISIS had controlled parts of Nineveh province since June 2014.
Last updated at 4.44 p.m.