Iraqi Army begins major offensive to retake ISIS-held Tal Afar

Iraqi security forces launched on Sunday an offensive to take back the city of Tal Afar, their next objective in the U.S.-backed campaign to defeat Islamic State militants, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said.

“You either surrender, or die,” Abadi said in a televised speech announcing the offensive, addressing the militants.

A longtime stronghold of hardline Sunni insurgents, Tal Afar, 80 kilometers west of Mosul, was cut off from the rest of the ISIL-held territory in June.

The city is surrounded by Iraqi government troops and Shiite volunteers in the south, and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in the north.

About 2,000 battle-hardened militants remain in the city, according to U.S. and Iraqi military commanders.

They are expected to put up a tough fight, even though intelligence from inside the city indicates they have been exhausted by months of combat, aerial bombardments, and by the lack of fresh supplies.