Baghdad – (IraqiNews.com) Turkey has said it will not remain silent on military advancements by al-Hashed al-Shaabi militia inside the mostly-Turkmen Iraqi town of Tal Afar, Nineveh, reminding the Iraqi government of what it described as its earlier pledges not to engage the militia in battles against Islamic State militants there.
“(Iraqi) Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had pledged through the United States that al-Hashed al-Shaabi would not enter Tal Afar, but on the ground, it seems they did enter,” Turkish presidency spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said in a press statement on Sunday.
Tal Afar has been a concern for Turkey which had said it feared Shia paramilitary forces engaged in combat could carry out any retaliatory measures against Sunni Turkmen residents of the town. Turkey’s deployment of troops in Nineveh has also triggered diplomatic war of words with Iraq. While Ankara maintains its presence is merely to train locals on combating ISIS, Baghdad says the deployment and Ankara’s concerns over Tal Afar were a pretext for intervention into the country’s affairs.
On Saturday, al-Hashed al-Shaabi media said the militia successfully liberated the strategic military airport of Tal Afar, proceeding to chase fleeing ISIS militants towards the town. Al-Hashed said the recapture of the airport represented a major step since it cut a major supply line for ISIS from Syria’s town of Raqqa, an ISIS stronghold.
Kalin said his country’s government “will not remain silent”, and “warns the Iraqi government, through the United States, that it is ought to honor its commitments.”