Defense ministry spokesman removed over Tal Afar battle confusion

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Baghdad ( Iraq’s Defense Ministry removed its spokesman on Wednesday after clashing statements regarding the start of an invasion of Islamic State’s last haven in Nineveh province.

Minister Erfan al-Hayali removed Brig. Gen. Mohamed al-Khodari after he declared Tuesday the start of the invasion of the town of Tal Afar, the last enclave  held by Islamic State militants in Nineveh and the next target marked for military operations by government troops.

With warplanes carrying out air raids on the group’s locations in Tal Afar on Tuesday, Khodari was quoted saying that military operations began to retake the town. Shortly afterwards, Yahia Rasoul, a spokesperson of the Joint Operations Command, which had led field operations against IS, refuted the statement, saying that the raids were only meant to exhaust the militants’ powers.

The Defense Ministry said late July that the date for Tal Afar invasion had been set, but would not be made public to maintain the secrecy of operations.

IS held Tal Afar since 2014, when militants proclaimed a self-styled “caliphate”. Early July, Iraqi government troops, backed by a U.S.-led coalition and paramilitary forces, recaptured Mosul, IS’s former capital in Iraq.


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