Iraqi Shia Militias Join Tal Afar Offensive

Iraqi Shia Militias Join Tal Afar Offensive Iraqi Shia Militias Join Tal Afar Offensive

Iraq’s Shia paramilitary groups said they started an offensive on Saturday against the positions of the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group west of Mosul, assisting in a campaign to take back the city. The operation will target Tal Afar, an IS-held area close to Turkey where a sizable ethnic Turkmen population lives, which could cause concern in Ankara.

The PMF said it had started moving early on Saturday toward Tal Afar from positions south of Mosul, IS’s last major city stronghold in Iraq, Reuters reported.

“The wounded city of Tal Afar (is among) the cities to be liberated,” said a statement on the PMF’s website.

The PMF officially reports to the Shia-led government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi who on Oct. 17 announced the start of an offensive targeting Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, with the backing of a US-led coalition.

The PMF was formed in 2014 to help push back IS’s sweeping advance through northern and western provinces.

Earlier announcements by the militias, collectively known as Hashid Shaabi or Popular Mobilization Forces, on advancing toward Mosul have drawn warnings from human rights groups concerned about sectarian violence in the mainly Sunni province.

Shias constitute a majority in Iraq but Sunnis are predominant in the north and the west.

The government and the PMF say a limited number of violations have occurred and that they were investigated but they deny that abuses were widespread and systematic.

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