(MENAFN- Colombo Gazette) Iraqi ground forces have begun an operation to retake Tal Afar, one of the last cities in the country held by the Islamic State group, officials say.
In a televised speech announcing the offensive overnight, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the jihadists had the choice between "surrender or die".
The army targeted Tal Afar after seizing Mosul, IS's main stronghold 55km (35 miles) to the east, in July.
Tal Afar, which has a mainly Shia-Muslim population, fell to IS in 2014.
It sits on a major road between Mosul and the Syrian border that was once a key supply route for the jihadist group.
Anti-IS coalition forces estimate that between 50,000 and 100,000 civilians remain in and around Tal Afar.
Iraqi warplanes have bombarded IS positions in the city for several days, in preparation for ground operations.
On Sunday Mr Abadi, dressed in a black military uniform and standing in front of an Iraqi flag and a map of the country, announced the "start of an operation to free Tal Afar".
"I am saying to Daesh [the Islamic State group] that there is no choice other than to surrender or die," he said.
He finished his speech with an address to Iraqi troops: "The whole world is with you."
US Army Lt Gen Stephen Townsend, the commander of US and coalition forces in Iraq and Syria, hailed the new offensive.
He said: "The Iraqi Security Forces' operation to liberate Tal Afar is another important fight that must be won to ensure the country and its citizens are finally free of IS.
"The coalition is strong, and fully committed to supporting our Iraqi partners until IS is defeated and the Iraqi people are free." (Courtesy BBC)
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