Iraqi warplanes carried out air strikes Tuesday against ISIL positions in Tal Afar in preparation for a ground assault to retake the town near the Syrian border, the military said.
Tal Afar is the main remaining ISIL stronghold in northern Iraq, after the capture by Iraqi forces in July of second city Mosul further east in a major blow to the Takfiri insurgents.
“Preparations are under way pending instructions from the commander in chief (Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi)” for the launch of the assault, said a spokesman for Iraq’s Joint Operation Command (JOC).
The spokesman, Yahiya Rassul, said that although the main offensive to retake Tal Afar had not yet begun, the air force was pounding insurgents’ positions in the town.
Plans to retake Tal Afar were announced on Monday by federal police chief Lieutenant General Raed Shakir Jawdat, who said “armored and elite units” were headed for the town.
The units, whose number has not been specified, were “regrouping in combat positions in preparation for the next battle,” he said in a statement.
Joining them is the Hashed al-Shaabi, paramilitary units deployed since 2014 to halt the Takfiri advance.
“Hashed al-Shaabi commanders met Saturday with army and police commanders to decide on the plan to free Tal Afar,” spokesman Ahmed al-Assadi said.