Nineveh – (Iraqinews.com) Al-Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary forces will soon begin a fourth phase of its combat operations by keeping a blockade over the Nineveh strategi city of Tal Afar, the Iraqi anti-terrorism forces commander said Monday after a recent controversy over its combat role.
Abdu Ghani al-Assadi told IBN news website that phase 4 of liberation battles at western Mosul will launch soon, with the Iraqi security forces invading the town of Tal Afar. “As the Tal Afar airport was completely purged, as well as a number of villages located between the precinct and the airport, security forces are preparing for the fourth phase of western Mosul liberation,” he stated.
“The troops are 4500 meters away from the administrative borders of northern Tal Afar,” Assadi said, adding that his militia’s role would be to “consummate a blockade on Tal Afar to isolate it from external supply routes preparing for its invasion by the forces assigned for that mission.”
“The invasion of Tal Afar will be carried out by the army, federal police and local mobilization units consisted of the town’s people,” Assadi said.
Tal Afar has been a concern for Turkey which had said it feared that Shia paramilitary forces engaged in combat, most notably al-Hashed al-Shaabi, could carry out retaliatory measures against Sunni Turkmen residents of the town.
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 cuts a major supply line for ISIS from Syria’s town of Raqqa, an ISIS stronghold.
On Sunday, Turkish presidency spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin urged the Iraqi government to honour pledges it had made through the United States to keep al-Hashed al-Shaabi away from the Tal Afar battles.