Iraqi forces to cut off Mo­sul from Syria

The Myanmar Times - - World -

IRAQI para­mil­i­tary forces launched an op­er­a­tion to cut the Is­lamic State group’s sup­ply lines be­tween its Mo­sul bas­tion and neigh­bour­ing Syria, open­ing a new front in the nearly twoweek-old of­fen­sive.

Forces from the Hashed al-Shaabi, a para­mil­i­tary um­brella or­gan­i­sa­tion dom­i­nated by Iran-backed Shi­ite mili­tias, have largely been on the side­lines since the launch of the op­er­a­tion to re­take Mo­sul.

But on October 29, they be­gan a push on the town of Tal Afar on the western ap­proach, the only side where ground forces, which have ad­vanced from the north, east and south, are not yet de­ployed.

“The op­er­a­tion aims to cut sup­plies be­tween Mo­sul and Raqa and tighten the siege of [the IS] in Mo­sul and lib­er­ate Tal Afar,” Hashed spokesper­son Ahmed al-As­sadi told AFP, re­fer­ring to IS’ main strong­hold in Syria.

Mr As­sadi said the op­er­a­tion was launched from the Sin al-Dha­ban area south of Mo­sul and aimed to re­take the towns of Ha­tra and Tal Abta as well as Tal Afar.

The drive to­ward Tal Afar could bring the fight­ing per­ilously close to the an­cient city of Ha­tra, a UNESCO World Her­itage Site that has al­ready been van­dalised by the IS.

Though it was not men­tioned by name, the op­er­a­tion may also pass near the ru­ins of Nim­rud, an­other ar­chae­o­log­i­cal site that has pre­vi­ously been at­tacked by the IS.

The in­volve­ment of Shi­ite mili­tias in the Mo­sul op­er­a­tion has been a source of con­tention, al­though some of the Hashed’s top com­man­ders in­sist that do not plan to en­ter the largely Sunni city.

Iraqi Kurds and Sunni Arab politi­cians have op­posed their in­volve­ment, as has Turkey which has a mil­i­tary pres­ence east of Mo­sul, de­spite re­peated de­mands by Baghdad for the forces to be with­drawn.

Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan has warned Shi­ite mili­tias against at­tack­ing Turk­men res­i­dents of Tal Afar.

“If the Hashed al-Shaabi sow ter­ror there, then our re­sponse will be dif­fer­ent,” Mr Er­do­gan said, ac­cord­ing to the state-run Anadolu news agency,

without spec­i­fy­ing what mea­sures would be taken.

Re­la­tions be­tween the Hashed and the US-led coali­tion fight­ing IS are also tense, but the paramil­i­taries en­joy wide­spread sup­port among mem­bers of Iraq’s Shi­ite ma­jor­ity.

More than 17,500 peo­ple have fled their homes to­ward gov­ern­ment-held ar­eas since the Mo­sul op­er­a­tion be­gan, the In­ter­na­tional Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Mi­gra­tion said on October 29.

Num­bers are ex­pected to soar as Iraqi forces close in.

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