United Nations agencies offer emergency assistance to Iraqis fleeing Tal Afar

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The Iraqi army, backed by U.S. airstrikes and special operations commandos, punched through an outer ring of Islamic State defences Tuesday in a 3-day-old push to reclaim Tall Afar, the militants' last major stronghold in northern Iraq.

"Right now we can expect about 15 brigades - totalling about 15,000 to 22,000 troops - to take part, which is sufficient to crack Tall Afar by December", he said.

Early in the morning, iraqi forces were grouped at the gates of the city before entering since several fronts in the city where, according to local officials, a thousand jihadists are cut off.

Most of the civilians fleeing the crisis in Tal Afar had to walk for hours in arduous conditions before reaching safe areas, many arriving exhausted and in poor health, and often with critical levels of malnutrition among children, some unable to move.

Ahmed al-Assadi, a spokesman for the Hachd al-Chaabi, reported fighting "violent", predicting that the resumption of Tal Afar would be "not long".

He says other reports indicate displaced people from Tal Afar are being harassed and subjected to revenge attacks.

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But this organization ultraradicale, also losing speed, in Syria, still has to hit.

In his weekly press conference, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi described Tuesday's progress as "excellent", calling it an "indication of the enemy's collapse".

The "operation to liberate Tal Afar is another important fight that must be won to ensure the country and its citizens are finally free of ISIS", the head of the anti-IS coalition Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend said in a statement, using another acronym for IS.

Weeks after recapturing Mosul in a major blow to the jihadists, convoys of Iraqi forces around Tal Afar began pounding IS positions from three sides at dawn Sunday.

This victory, he said, would not have occurred "without the firm hand of the Prime minister Abadi who has reconstituted the army, dilapidated in 2014".

The coalition would continue to support Iraqi forces with "equipment, training, intelligence, precision fires and combat advice".

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After the withdrawal in 2011 of us troops remained in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, the Americans were then deployed hundreds of military advisers to assist the authority in the face of the jihadists.

"[IS] is now caught in between converging forces", Mattis said referring to US-backed troops in Iraq and Syria.

Mattis was accompanied by Brett McGurk, the special USA envoy to the coalition against the Islamic State.

A USA official also said Mattis would press Massoud Barzani, president of the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, to call off a planned referendum on independence. "All of the members of our coalition believe that this is not a good time to organize".

Mattis stressed that retaking Mosul would not have happened "without". "This will not happen overnight", he warned.

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