Iraqi troops reach urban areas of Tal Afar
Iraqi forces have reached the first urban areas of the Islamic State-held town of Tal Afar, on the third day of a multi-pronged operation, said a military commander.
US-trained elite troops, known as the Counter Terrorism Service, entered the al-Kifah neighbourhood on the south-west edge of the northern town, said Lieutenant General Abdul-Amir Rasheed Yar Allah.
Brigadier General Haider Fadhil, of the Iraqi special forces, said the advancing troops did not face tough resistance from IS fighters, though they did fire rockets, sent suicide car bombers and used roadside bombs.
He said he expected the fighting to get heavier as they push into the town's centre about three miles away. Civilians were not seen fleeing the area, he added.
The US-backed operation was launched on Sunday, a month after Iraq declared victory over IS in Mosul, the country's second largest city.
Tal Afar, about 90 miles east of the Syrian border, is in one of the last pockets of IS-held territory in Iraq.
Along with the special forces, Iraq's regular army, militarised Federal Police and Shiite-dominated paramilitary forces are taking part in the assault.
State-run TV aired live footage showing pillars of smoke rising in the distance as military vehicles travelled through wide, arid areas.
Iraqi forces have driven IS from most of the major towns and cities seized by the militants in summer 2014, including Mosul, which was retaken after a gruelling nine-month campaign.
Along with Tal Afar, the militants are still fully in control of the northern town of Hawija as well as Qaim, Rawa and Ana, in western Iraq near the Syrian border.