The Iraqi military says its forces have taken nearly all of Tal Afar, the Islamic State (IS) extremists’ stronghold in the northwest of the country, but commanders say some militants continue to hold out in a nearby region.
The military on August 27 said that after eight days of fighting, its forces have recaptured all 29 neighborhoods in Tal Afar from IS fighters.
Iraqi Brigadier General Yahya Rasool said the military was waiting to declare victory until after it retakes Al-Ayadiya, a small region where extremists are holding out after fleeing the Tal Afar city center some 11 kilometers away.
Tal Afar is the latest major objective for U.S.-backed Iraqi forces after having driven IS from the larger northern city of Mosul, which the extremists took in 2014 and named the center of their self-declared Islamic “caliphate.”
About 2,000 militants were believed to be holding out in Tal Afar at the start of the offensive on August 20.
Iraqi forces consisted of some 50,000 fighters, Iraqi and Western officials say.
Iraqi special forces liberated the city center on August 26 and raised the Iraqi flag atop of the heavily damaged, Ottoman-era citadel.
"We tried to push out the militants without doing too much damage," a Shi'ite militia fighter allied with the Iraqi forces told the Reuters news agency. "We only used light weaponry."