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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Iraqi forces push for last battle to regain full control of Tal Afar from ISIL 

It comes as 11 people were killed in eastern Baghdad on Monday in a car bombing that ripped through a busy market

Smoke rises from clashes during the war between Iraqi army and Shiite Popular Mobilisation Forces against the ISIL militants in Al Ayadiya, north-west of Tal Afar, Iraq on August 28, 2017. Thaier Al Sudani/Reuters
Smoke rises from clashes during the war between Iraqi army and Shiite Popular Mobilisation Forces against the ISIL militants in Al Ayadiya, north-west of Tal Afar, Iraq on August 28, 2017. Thaier Al Sudani/Reuters

Heavy fighting continued on Monday between Iraqi forces and ISIL fighters just outside of Tal Afar, a day after the military said it had retaken all 29 districts of the northwestern city from the extremists.

Fierce clashes were ongoing between government forces fighting alongside the mainly Shiite Hashed Al Shaabi militias and ISIL in the town of Al Ayadieh — situated approximately 15 kilometres north of Tal Afar on the road to the Syrian border.

ISIL fighters fled to Al Ayadieh after being driven out of Tal Afar and appeared to be making a last stand, according to Iraqi military spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Rasool.

Clearing operations were meanwhile continuing in Tal Afar after US-led Iraqi forces on Sunday said they had retaken all of the city's districts, a week after launching an offensive to recapture the ISIL stronghold. Forces were on Monday waiting for fighting to stop in Al Ayadieh before declaring complete victory in the offensive, with prime minister Haider Al Abadi expected to soon arrive in Tal Afar to announce its "liberation" from ISIL.

Following Tal Afar's recapture, the only Iraqi territory remaining under ISIL control is the city of Hawija, situated about 300 kilometres north of Baghdad, and desert areas along the border with Syria.

As Iraqi forces seized Tal Afar from the extremists, district by district, they would remove ISIL's black flags and hang them upside-down before taking "victory selfies".

According to Iraqi federal police, ground forces on Saturday took control of a building in the west of the city that is thought to have been used by ISIL to imprison and torture anyone who opposed their self-proclaimed caliphate.

During their three-year occupation of Tal Afar, the extremists also turned the city's Ottoman-era citadel into a prison where they chained men and women whose behaviour they considered "sinful".

Meanwhile, at least 11 people were killed in eastern Baghdad on Monday morning in a car bombing that ripped through a busy market.

A police officer said the explosives-laden car went off on Monday morning at the wholesale Jamila market in the Shiite district of Sadr City.

The explosion wounded 28 other people and the death toll is expected to rise, he added.

Members of the security forces were among the victims, medical sources said, confirming the toll.

"It was a thunderous explosion," said Hussein Kadhim, a 35-year old porter and father of three who was wounded in his right leg. "It sounds that the security situation is still uncontrollable and I'm afraid that such bombings will make a comeback."

ISIL quickly claimed responsibility for the bombing. The Sunni militants consider Shiites to be apostates and have frequently claimed attacks on Shiite-dominated areas of Iraq.

The extremists have claimed several bombings in Baghdad, many taking place after the group became the target of a massive assault on its Mosul bastion which Iraqi forces retook in July after nine months of fighting.

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