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Iraqi PM declares liberation of Tal Afar area from IS militants
Last Updated: 2017-09-01 15:36 | Xinhua
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Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Thursday declared full liberation of the city of Tal Afar and surrounding areas from the extremist Islamic State (IS) militants.

"I declare to you that Tal Afar has joined the liberated Mosul and returned to the homeland," Abadi said in a statement issued by his office.

"Tal Afar has been liberated and the Iraqi flag has risen again by the hands of the heroic Iraqi fighters of the Army, the Federal Police, the Counter-Terrorism Service, the Hashd Shaabi, the Rapid Response and the people of Tal Afar," Abadi said.

During the past days, the Iraqi forces have "eliminated and crashed Daesh (IS militants) in Ayadhiyah and other areas and did not allow them to escape," Abadi added.

"The joy of victory has been completed and the entire province of Nineveh has become in the hands of our heroic forces," Abadi said.

The PM also vowed to defeat IS group all over Iraq, saying "wherever you (IS militants) are, we are coming for liberation, and you have no choice but to die or surrender," according to the statement.

A statement by the Iraqi Joint Operation Command (JOC) said that the 9th Armored Division, federal police and its special forces, known as Rapid Response, freed the neighborhoods of the town of Ayadhiyah, some 11 km north of newly-liberated city of Tal Afar.

Meanwhile, the army's 15th Infantry Division cleared the areas in northwest of the city of Tal Afar, while the 16th Infantry Division cleared the areas in northeast of Tal Afar, the JOC statement said.

"With the support of Iraqi and international coalition aircraft, and with this great victory, the operations to liberate Tal Afar have ended and the liberation of whole province of Nineveh has completed," the statement quoted Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir Yarallah from the JOC as saying.

The Tal Afar area is about 3,206 square km, which consists of the city of Tal Afar and three towns: Zummar, which is under control of the Kurdish security forces, Mahalabiyah and Ayadhiyah, which were freed from IS militants during the latest offensive.

The whole Tal Afar area consists of 47 villages scattered around the city and its three towns.

The majority of the population in the Tal Afar area are Sunni and Shiite Turkomans, in addition to the Kurds and other minorities.

On Aug. 20, Abadi, also the commander-in-chief of Iraqi forces, declared the start of an operation to retake control of Tal Afar and the nearby areas from IS militants.

The Tal Afar area, some 70 km west of Mosul, was the last IS redoubt in the province of Nineveh.

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