Iraqi PM declares Tal Afar 'fully liberated' from IS

Iraq's prime minister has declared the town of Tal Afar "fully liberated" from Islamic State after a nearly two-week operation.

Haider al-Abadi said Iraqi troops "eliminated and smashed Daesh terrorists" in the al-Ayadia district, about 10 kilometres (six miles) north-west of Tal Afar, where the militants fled last week. Daesh is the Arabic acronym for IS.

Mr Al-Abadi said with Tal Afar liberated, all of Nineveh province - the first area IS militants captured in a 2014 blitz - "is in the hands of our brave troops".

Iraqi officials often declare areas liberated before the fighting has completely ended, and the militants have been known to carry out surprise counterattacks.

IS stills control the northern town of Hawija as well as towns in western Iraq, near Syria.

"To Daesh criminals we say: 'Wherever you are, we will come to liberate and you have to choose only death or surrender'," Mr Al-Abadi said.

US-backed Iraqi troops launched the operation to retake Tal Afar early last week, a month after it declared the northern city of Mosul, its second largest, to be fully liberated.

Tal Afar is about 150 kilometres (93 miles) from Syria's border and it was among the last IS-held towns in Iraq.

Iraqi forces have driven IS from most of Iraq's major towns and cities seized by the militants in the summer of 2014, including Mosul, which was retaken after a gruelling nine-month campaign.

An Iraqi policeman checks the documents of displaced civilians at a collection point west of Mosul on the outskirts of Tal Afar. Picture: AP Photo/Balint Szlanko, File


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