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Heavy clashes in last pocket of ISIS fighters near Tal Afar

By AFP

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Smoke billows as Iraqi forces advance inside the town of Tal Afar after the Iraqi government announced the launch of the offensive to retake it from the 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria', on August 25th. [Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP]

Iraqi forces engaged in heavy fighting Monday (August 28th) near Tal Afar with the last pocket of "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) fighters in the northern province of Ninawa.

An AFP journalist saw fierce clashes pitting Iraqi government forces against ISIS fighters in the town of al-Ayadieh, 15 kilometres north of Tal Afar.

Iraqi troops, police and special forces took control of all districts inside Tal Afar on Sunday, a week after launching their latest offensive against the ISIS stronghold.

Clearing operations were continuing and Prime Minister Haider al-Abbadi was expected to soon arrive in the city to announce its "liberation" from ISIS.

Some of those inside Tal Afar were believed to have fled to al-Ayadieh, located on the road between the city and the Syrian border, where they appeared to be making a desperate last stand.

The extremists launched three suicide car bomb attacks at Iraqi forces on Monday morning and smoke could be seen rising above the town from airstrikes carried out in support of ground troops.

"Iraqi forces have accomplished their mission in liberating Tal Afar," Joint Operations Command spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasul told Diyaruna.

They are now conducting clearing operations in residential neighbourhoods, commercial buildings, and the industrial zone in search of hiding ISIS elements, he said.

They are also removing landmines and dismantling vehicles packed with explosives, he added.

"The army is now fighting in the last pocket [near Tal Afar] before announcing Ninawa a fully liberated province," he said.

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