Iraq bombing IS-held Tal Afar ahead of assault

Iraqi forces are carrying out air strikes on Tal Afar, a town held by IS west of Mosul, in preparation for a ground assault, an Iraqi military spokesman said on Tuesday. IS’ self-proclaimed caliphate effectively collapsed last month, when US-backed Iraqi forces completed the recapture of Mosul, the militants’ capital in northern Iraq, after a nine-month campaign.  Parts of Iraq and Syria remain however under IS control, especially along the border.
Iraqi authorities had said Tal Afar, 80 km west of Mosul, will be the next target in the war on IS, who swept through parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014.
The town, which had about 200,000 residents before falling to IS, experienced cycles of sectarian violence after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, and has produced some of IS’ most senior commanders.
“The preparations are under way, there are strikes aimed at wearing them down and keeping them busy, targeting their command and control centres, their depots…these strikes have been going on for some time,” Iraqi military spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Rasool said in a statement.
“We are waiting for the commander in chief of the armed forces (Prime Minister Haider al Abadi) to give the orders for the liberation battle to start.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Baghdad-based Al Sumariya TV quoted Defence Ministry spokesman Mohammed al Khodari as saying the ground attack should start after the aerial bombardment campaign. — Reuters