Iraqi forces advanced Wednesday towards central Tal Afar, one of the ISIL group’s last strongholds in the country, as aid workers braced for an exodus of civilians fleeing the fighting.
Armoured personnel carriers full of soldiers and fighters of the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary coalition moved into Al-Nur district early in the morning as warplanes flew overhead, said an AFP photographer on the ground.
They encountered trucks parked across roads with earthen embankments aimed at stopping them, as well as sniper fire and mortar shelling.
Six weeks after routing the terrorists from Iraq’s second city Mosul, the Iraqi forces launched an assault Sunday on Tal Afar, where an estimated 1,000 terrorists are holed up.
They retook three first districts of the city on Tuesday, but as with the grueling nine-month campaign to recapture Mosul, their convoys face an onslaught of suicide and car bomb attacks.
On Wednesday they “entered the neighborhood of Al-Kifah North… and headed towards the centre of the city,” said Ahmed al-Assadi, spokesman for the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary coalition fighting ISIL alongside the army and police.
“All the lines of ISIL defense outside the city have been broken and the troops are advancing from all directions towards the inner quarters of the city,” he added.
As they advanced, troops said they discovered a network of underground tunnels used by the terrorists to launch attacks behind lines of already conquered territory, or to escape.