The Latest: UN says thousands will flee Tal Afar operation
BAGHDAD – The Latest on developments in Iraq (all times local):
The United Nations is warning that thousands of civilians are expected to flee Islamic State-held Tal Afar and surrounding areas where Iraqi security forces have launched an operation to retake the town.
The Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande, describes the situation inside Tal Afar as "very tough," where food and water are running out and people lack the basic necessities. Grande says more than 30,000 people have already fled, but didn't say since when.
In a statement issued on Sunday hours after the multi-pronged operation was announced, Grande expressed concerns "about the extreme risks that families are facing" and called on warring parties to protect the civilians.
Tal Afar and the surrounding area is one of the last pockets of IS-held territory in Iraq after victory was declared in July in Mosul.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Aabadi says the operation to retake the town of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, from the Islamic State group has begun.
Al-Abadi says IS fighters inside the town have "no option" but to surrender or die.
Tal Afar and the surrounding area is one of the last pockets of IS-held territory in Iraq after victory was declared in July in Mosul, the country's second-largest city.
The town, about 150 kilometers (93 miles) east of the Syrian border, sits along a major road that was once a key IS supply route.
Aid groups have warned the operation could trigger a humanitarian crisis as a stepped up campaign of airstrikes and troop buildup has already forced tens of thousands to flee, according to the United Nations.