Iraq forces recapture Tal Afar centre, citadel from IS

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The Iraqi army also said on Thursday that they have seized five more villages on the eastern and southern outskirts of the city as part of the Tal Afar offensive, Reuters reported.

According to Rasul, there are no more than 2,000 Daesh militants in Tal Afar, who are mostly foreign fighters.

On Saturday, they battled IS jihadists around Al-Ayadieh, 15 kilometres (10 miles) north of Tal Afar and strategically located on the road between the city and the Syrian border, said Yarallah.

Tal Afar has served as a key ISIS route between Iraq and Syria since 2014 and is the last major centre in northwestern Iraq still controlled by the terrorist group.

Gen. Yahya Rasool said units from the joint Iraqi forces are in full control of 60% of the "operational area" and 90% of the city center of Tal Afar.

It experienced cycles of sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shi'ites after the US -led invasion of Iraq in 2003, and has produced some of Islamic State's most senior commanders.

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Earlier, a top army commander said Iraqi soldiers had captured a prominent shrine revered by Shia Muslims.

The call during the Friday sermon delivered by Sistani's representative Sheikh Abdulmehdi al-Karbalai, from the holy city of Karbala comes after the operation to retake Tal Afar began last week.

It doesn't appear that this has involved a lot of heavy fighting so far, despite Iraqi officials claiming a large ISIS force remains in the city.

Iraq's state-run TV aired live footage showing pillars of smoke rising in the distance as military vehicles traveled through wide, arid areas.

People are arriving at camps for displaced people with wounds from sniper fire and mine explosions.

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