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Iraqi Military: Most of Tal Afar Captured from ISIS | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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An Iraqi fighter waved an Iraqi flag as others behind flashed a victory gesture during the advance through the town of Tal Afar Saturday. (AFP)

The Iraqi military announced on Sunday that its forces have captured the majority of the northwestern city of Tal Afar from the ISIS terrorist group.

All 29 neighborhoods in Tal Afar city had been taken back from the terror group, the military said in a statement. The battle for the city was kicked off only eight days ago.

Fighting was however ongoing in al-Ayadiya, a small area 11 kilometers northwest of the city, where terrorists who fled the district’s city center were hiding out, Iraqi military spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Rasool said.

Iraqi forces were waiting to retake the area before declaring complete victory in the offensive, he said.

Tal Afar was the latest objective in the US-backed war on the terror group following the recapture in July of Mosul, where it declared its self-proclaimed “caliphate” over parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014.

The offensive on Tal Afar, which lies on the supply route between Syria and the former ISIS stronghold of Mosul, started on August 20. Up to 2,000 terrorists were believed to be defending the city against around 50,000 attackers, according to Iraqi and western military sources.

Such a quick collapse of ISIS in the city would confirm Iraqi military reports that the terrorists lack command and control structures west of Mosul.

Residents who fled Tal Afar days before the start of the offensive told Reuters that the militants looked “exhausted” and “depleted”.

Tens of thousands of people are believed to have fled in the weeks before the battle started. Remaining civilians were threatened with death by the terrorists, according to aid organizations and residents who managed to leave.

Iraqi military investigators said Friday they have discovered two mass graves near a former ISIS prison outside Mosul that contain the bodies of 500 ISIS victims.

The Media Cell Security Investigation team said in a statement that one grave near the Badoush Prison site contained the bodies of 470 prisoners killed by ISIS. It said a second grave contained 30 victims.

Authorities were continuing to look for more graves.

ISIS has scattered mass graves across Iraq and Syria.

The Associated Press last year documented and mapped 72 of them. For at least 16 of the Iraqi graves, officials do not even guess the number of dead. In others, the estimates are based on memories of traumatized survivors, ISIS propaganda and what can be gleaned from a cursory look at the earth. But even the known numbers of victims ranges from 5,200 to more than 15,000.