Iraqi security forces launched on Sunday an offensive to take back the city of Tal Afar, their next objective in the U.S.-backed campaign to defeat Islamic State militants, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said, Reuters reported.
"You either surrender, or die," Abadi said in a televised speech announcing the offensive, addressing the militants.
A longtime stronghold of hardline Sunni insurgents, Tal Afar, 50 miles (80 km) west of Mosul, was cut off from the rest of the Islamic State-held territory in June.
The city is surrounded by Iraqi government troops and Shi'ite volunteers in the south, and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in the north.
About 2,000 battle-hardened militants remain in the city, according to U.S. and Iraqi military commanders.
They are expected to put up a tough fight, even though intelligence from inside the city indicates they have been exhausted by months of combat, aerial bombardments, and by the lack of fresh supplies.
Hours before Abadi's announcement, the Iraqi air force dropped leaflets over the city telling the population to take their precautions. "Prepare yourself, the battle is imminent and the victory is coming, God willing," they read.
Islamic State's self-proclaimed "caliphate" effectively collapsed last month, when U.S.-backed Iraqi forces completed the takeover of the militants' capital in Iraq, Mosul, after a nine-month campaign.
But parts of Iraq and Syria remain under its control, including Tal Afar, a city with a pre-war population of about 200,000.