Iraqi troops ‘liberate’ Tal Afar town center

Iraqi government forces drive down a road leading to Tal Afar on June 9, 2017, during ongoing battles to retake the city from Islamic State (IS) group fighters. / AFP PHOTO / MOHAMED EL-SHAHED

BAGHDAD — The Iraqi military says it has “fully liberated” Tal Afar’s town center from the Islamic State group.

That brings Iraqi forces a step closer to taking full control of one of the extremists’ last strongholds in Iraq.

Sunday’s statement says Iraqi troops have captured all of the town’s neighborhoods and they are now heading to al-Ayadia district, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) northwest of Tal Afar where militants have fled.

Last Sunday, U.S.-backed Iraqi troops launched a multi-pronged operation to retake Tal Afar, a month after declaring Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, fully liberated. Tal Afar is about 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Syria’s border.

The militants still control the northern town of Hawija as well as Qaim, Rawa and Ana, in western Iraq near the Syrian border.