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Iraqi forces retake three districts of ISIS bastion

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"That said, an enemy that literally hides behind women and children, or forces innocent people to stay in an area that they intend to turn into a battleground, are clearly showing who are the people violating every standard of decency", he continued, adding that ISIS' behavior "fills us with conviction, as far as what we have to do about this enemy".

In July, Iraqi troops, supported by the forces of a US-led coalition, routed ISIL in Mosul, allowing it to advance into Tal Afar on Sunday.

After the intense fighting in Mosul, the Iraqi forces regrouped, quickly refitting and transitioning their force into a new offensive in Tal Afar, west of Mosul, he said.

The United Nations reports more than 30,000 people have fled Tal Afar district since April, with thousands more remaining behind. "They have been shown to be unable to stand up to our team in combat". "So ISIS' days are certainly numbered, but it's not over yet and it's not going to be over anytime soon".

Civilians were not seen fleeing the area.

South al-Kifah, the first neighborhood of the diverse city of Tal Afar was liberated from ISIS on the fourth day of a multi-pronged assault after the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi and Iraqi armed forces entered the town and engaged in clashes with ISIS militants.

The UN's refugee agency UNHCR said it had received some 9,000 people at the Hamman Al Alil transit centre over the past week.

Mattis then left for Erbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdish semi-autonomous region, where he is scheduled to hold a meeting with President Massoud Barzani.

In Iraq, Mattis was due to meet with senior Iraqi government leaders and U.S. commanders.

Barzani has so far resisted worldwide pressure to delay the referendum.

Mattis spoke to reporters with Brett McGurk, special presidential envoy for the global coalition to defeat ISIS, and Army Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, the commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve.

This victory, he said, would not have occurred "without the firm hand of the Prime minister Abadi who has reconstituted the army, dilapidated in 2014".

"There has been no military in the world's history that has paid more attention to limiting civilian casualties and the deaths of innocents on the battlefield than the coalition military, here in the last years, when precision gave us options that we never had before in history", Mattis said.

Later during the trip, Mattis is expected to visit Turkey and Ukraine.