Baghdad (IraqiNews.com) Kurdistan Region’s President Masud Barzani has said that most of Sunni Turkmen citizens in Nineveh’s Tal Afar are loyal to the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
Barzani’s remarks on Wednesday to Saudi newspaper AlHayat come as the Iraqi Cabinet and the military command prepare for an invasion of the outstanding Islamic State stronghold town which the group has held since 2014.
“Those who remained in Tal Afar are Sunni Turkmen, and a majority of them cooperated with Daesh (IS),” Barzani told the newspaper. He, however, said he hopes the town would be liberated with the least losses possible among civilians
Asked about the participation of Shia-led, pro-government paramilitary troops- Popular Mobilization- in the Tal Afar battle, Barzani said his government had a conviction from the beginning that the operation should be exclusively carried out by the government forces.
“There had been fears of actions of revenge against innocent children and women that could complicate things further,” Barzani said. “Tal Afar is located outside the region (Kurdistan) and we believe it is necessary that the Iraqi army takes on the liberation of that region.”
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had recently said that Tal Afar was the next target of operations against IS with the participation of the mobilization forces. The mobilization forces’ engagement in the anticipated campaign had been a point of controversy, with opponents, including regional Sunni powers like Turkey and Saudi Arabia, saying the step could have sectarian complications.
Mobilization forces, formed in 2014 as per a decision by Iraq’s Shia clergy to combat IS, have regularly faced accusations of committing human rights violations at areas recaptured from IS. Abadi has regularly defended the troops.