The operations to retake Tal Afar, one of the last cities in Iraq held by the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, have begun, Prime Minister of Iraq Haider al-Abadi announced Sunday.  Abadi in a televised speech said warned the terrorists saying they had two choices — surrender or die.

"I am saying to Daesh that there is no choice other than to surrender or die," Abadi warned the terrorist group in a televised speech, BBC reported. Addressing the Iraqi troops in his speech, al-Abadi said, “The whole world is with you.” Before the Prime Ministers speech, leaflets with the words “The battle is imminent and the victory is coming, God willing” were dropped in Tal Afar by Iraqi air force.

Many ISIS locations in the town have been bombarded in last few weeks.

Tal Afar is a town located in around 43 miles west of Mosul which was the center of all activities of ISIS, according to reports. ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had proclaimed himself as the ruler of all Muslims from the pulpit Al-Nuri mosque of Mosul on July 4, 2014.

While Tal Afar town is smaller than Mosul, it is believed there are around 1,000 ISIS militants and they would give a tough battle to the forces, Washington Post reported.

The town is only 37 miles east of Syrian border. It has acted as a route for fighters to enter the country. Later, it became the hub for the movement of supplies between Mosul and Syrian town Raqqa. In late 2016, Iraqi forces had surrounded the city to cut the supplies. Tal Afar had also become home to many senior ISIS leaders.

With the strategic location of the town near the border with Syria and Turkey, the regional powers would closely watch the battle, reports said.

ISIS fighters have dug trenches around the city and can use light machine guns, improvised explosive devices, and car bombs, a strategy similar to what they had adopted in Mosul, Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, a spokesman for the Iraqi military, told reporters Thursday, according to New York times.

As the preparation of assault started thousands of Iraqis have fled to the Kurdish region. It has been estimated that around 50,000 people have fled from the area around Tal Afra since April and an equal number of people are expected to flee in coming days, Al Jazeera reported.

Before ISIS gained control over the city in June 2014, the was home for Shiites and Sunnis. However, after the ISIS gained control large Shiite populations massacred or were forced to leave the town.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in June had declared the end of the Islamic State group's (ISIS) presence in the country after the Iraqi government troops gained control over the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul.  

It was the first time since 2014 that Iraqi forces were able to get full control over the 850-year-old structure, only rubbles of which remain now. After the city was first captured by ISIS in 2014, the mosque played an important role in spreading the group’s propaganda and strengthening its hold on the city.