By Serhad Shakir
Roughly 500 families have fled Iraq’s Daesh-held Tal Afar district to next-door Syria in recent days amid an ongoing Iraqi army campaign to capture the district, a local military official said Friday.
“Since the army launched its campaign to liberate Tal Afar, around 500 families have fled the district and crossed the border into neighboring Syria,” Nashwan Ibrahim, a Peshmerga brigade commander, told Anadolu Agency.
Tal Afar is located roughly 60 kilometers east of the Iraq-Syria border.
“Of those to have fled, almost 200 have been arrested by the Iraqi authorities for suspected Daesh links and are currently under interrogation,” Ibrahim said.
Earlier Friday, another Iraqi military source, speaking anonymously due to restrictions on talking to media, told Anadolu Agency that 6,000 civilians had been evacuated from Tal Afar within the past 48 hours due to fierce fighting between Iraqi forces and Daesh.
A predominantly Turkmen district, Tal Afar was overrun by the notorious terrorist group in mid-2014, along with vast territories in northern and western Iraq.
On Sunday, the Iraqi government launched a major offensive to retake Tal Afar, which involves army troops, Federal Police units, counter-terrorism forces and fighters from the Hashd al-Shaabi (a largely Shia force incorporated into the Iraqi army last year).
In advance of the operation, the Iraqi army had amassed 400,000 troops and personnel outside the district in preparation for “liberating” it from Daesh.