THE “Islamic state” proclaimed by the Isis death cult is close to collapse after the Iraqi army liberated the town of Tal Afar yesterday following a week of fighting.
The victory came as Isis agreed to surrender its stronghold on the Syria-Lebanon border, the day after Syrian troops conquered a huge Isis pocket north of Palmyra.
A statement by the Iraqi armed forces said troops, backed by Popular Mobilisation Units militia fighters, had captured all remaining districts of the town and were pushing north-west to al-Ayadia six miles away, where the extremists had fled.
On Saturday, army spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Rasool said his forces controlled 90 per cent of the town — mere hours after Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said 70 per cent had been taken.
The army overran miles of countryside east of Tal Afar the same day.
Tens of thousands of soldiers, federal police, counter-terrorism troops and militia launched the offensive on the town west of recently liberated Mosul on August 20, facing an estimated 2,000 Isis zealots.
A similar number of militants have been holding out against the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces and hundreds of US special forces in Raqqa for almost two months, despite constant air raids.
Yesterday morning, Lebanon’s army and the country’s Hezbollah movement agreed a ceasefire with Isis forces on the border after 10 days of fighting to negotiate the terrorists’ evacuation to an unspecified location.
Damascus ally Hezbollah limited its operations to the Syrian side in West Qalamoun, leaving the Lebanese army — backed by US-led air raids — to clear the Arsal Barrens.
The bodies of six Lebanese soldiers abducted by Isis two years ago were found buried near the border.
On Saturday, the Syrian army collapsed the 45-mile-wide pocket of Isis territory in the oil-rich desert between Palmyra and Raqqa, having surrounded it on Thursday.
Yesterday, troops resumed their push towards the Isis-besieged eastern city of Deir Ezzor from Suknah east of Palmyra and further north in Ghanim al-Ali on the south bank of the River Euphrates.
In southern Syria, the army gained some 80 square miles of ground from US-backed Free Syrian Army militants along the Jordanian border.