Having occupied the city of Tal Afar for a number of years and fighting the Iraqi armed forces in the process of keeping its grip on the city, ISIS planted several mines in the area in an attempt to fend off attempts to liberate the city. Nevertheless, the city was liberated from ISIS hands by the Iraqi forces at the end of August after over a week of clashes between the Army and ISIS militants.
The Iraqi Army is currently clearing the mines left behind by ISIS militants as they scan the neighbourhoods of the city for any remnants of the terrorist group. Large areas of the city have been emptied of the civilian population due to the treacherous conditions of living under ISIS rule and the forced displacement that has left thousands of people from Tal Afar stranded all across Iraq.
The city’s authorities hope that with the restoration of infrastructure and services, former residents will return to their city as the security situation becomes stable. The municipality has begun to re-open its main streets and to ensure water and electricity runs in buildings so that civilians would be able to resettle in their homes.
The strategic importance of Tal Afar and the significance of its liberation should not be understated. The city was long an important stopover in the route between itself and Mosul, the former self-proclaimed capital of ISIS that was liberated in early July. ISIS militants would use Tal Afar to transfer militants, weapons and even civilians.
The city was also a strategic access point into the desert in Anbar, particularly with towns that were formerly under ISIS control.
The loss of Tal Afar has been a significant step in precipitating ISIS’ demise and it signalled the end of the terrorist group’s presence in Nineveh province.