Iraqi forces take citadel, clear 5 more districts in Tal Afar

A woman weeps about many family members buried under the rubble of her home still praying they can be rescued during the battle to liberate Mosul. During the fighting there were reports of civilians being used as human shields by jihadis who set traps

Iraqi and USA forces continue to advance on the ISIS held city of Tal Afar.

Up to 2,000 battle-hardened militants remain in Tal Afar, according to USA and Iraqi military commanders.

Tal Afar sits on a strategic route between IS-controlled territories in Syria and Mosul, 70 kilometres further east. Officials have said the capture of the city would make it even more hard for the jihadists to transport fighters and weapons between Iraq and Syria.

Tal Afar - which had a population of 200,000 before it fell to Isis in 2014 - is located some 80km west of Mosul, a major Isis stronghold in the country.

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Gen. Yahya Rasool said units from the joint Iraqi forces are in full control of 60% of the "operational area" and 90% of the city center of Tal Afar.

The main forces taking part in the Tal Afar offensive are the Iraqi army, air force, Federal Police, the elite US-trained Counter-Terrorism Service and some units from the predominantly Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces that began encircling the city on Sunday.

Earlier in the day, the Iraqi army claimed that it had liberated a citadel in Tal Afar's center, according to a statement obtained by Sputnik.

On Monday, Lise Grande, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, said more than 30,000 people had already fled the city and surrounding areas.

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Several villages north of Tal Afar have yet to be retaken, the statement said.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Defence Minister Florence Parly, who arrived in the Iraqi capital on Friday evening, were scheduled to meet Abadi.

Mosul's collapse effectively marked the end of Islamic State's "caliphate", but the group remains in control of territory on both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi border, and of Hawija, a city between Mosul and Baghdad that Iraqi officials said would be the next target.

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