Tal Afar (IraqiNews.com) Twelve Islamic State militants died Thursday when an underground tunnel they were using collapsed in the town of Tal Afar, west of Nineveh, a paramilitary leader said.
Speaking to Alsumaria News, Jabbar al-Maamouri, a commander at the Popular Mobilization Forces, said the militants scurried to the tunnel escaping an air strike. “The strike hit the tunnel’s opening, killing all inside, according to the information we have,” Maamouri stated.
The militants raised alert among members to extract the buried corpses, and did manage to the some out, he said, adding that the group had escalated the digging of tunnels which had usually been used as escape routes or for assaulting security forces.
Tal Afar is 65 kilometers west of Mosul, and is home to a mixed Turkmen and Arab population. Iraqi forces recaptured Mosul, Islamic State’s former capital, early July after more than eight months of U.S.-backed offensives.
Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi and his defense officials have marked Tal Afar as their next target of anti-Islamic State action. Iraqi defense officials said recently that warplanes were carrying out raids on the enclave in preparation for the ground invasion which is yet to be scheduled.
Tal Afar has reportedly seen divisions among Islamic State leaderships, with occasional news telling of power conflicts and dissents among leaders, as well as attempts by some militants to flee the anticipated battle field.
Since Iraqi forces launched a wide-scale campaign to retake Mosul in 2016, paramilitary troops managed to isolate the town from the Syrian borders and from the rest of Nineveh.