The Shiite paramilitary Al-Hashd al-Shaabi, also known as the Popular Mobilization, confirmed it is also taking part in the battle. AFP / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE
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Iraqi security forces launched an offensive to take back the city of Tal Afar Sunday, their next objective in the U.S.-backed campaign to defeat Daesh (ISIS) militants, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said.About 2,000 battle-hardened militants remain in Tal Afar, according to U.S. and Iraqi military commanders.Daesh's "caliphate" in effect collapsed last month when U.S.-backed Iraqi forces recaptured the militants' capital in Iraq, the major city of Mosul, after a nine-month campaign. But parts of Iraq and Syria remain under Daesh control, including Tal Afar, a city with a prewar population of about 200,000 .The main forces taking part in the offensive are the Iraqi army, air force, federal police and the elite U.S.-trained Counter Terrorism Service, who began encircling the city Sunday.Five villages surrounding Tal Afar were retaken by Iraqi forces and Al-Hashd al-Shaabi on the first day of the offensive.As the campaign got underway, the U.S.-led coalition carried out dozens of strikes in support of Iraqi forces as they advanced on the outskirts of Tal Afar, U.S. officials said.
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