Iran-backed Iraqi force says takes IS villages on Syria border

Elements of the paramilitary al-Hashed al-Sha’bi force. Archival photo.

(Reuters/ An Iraqi Shi’ite Muslim force backed by Iran said it pushed Islamic State out of a group of villages on the border with Syria on Monday, a manoeuvre that could weaken the militants’ hold on the frontier.

The Iraqi territory taken by the Popular Mobilisation force connected with land held by U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish groups on the Syrian side, creating a possible bridge.

In a statement on its website, Popular Mobilisation described its advance through Iraq to the border with Syria as “a Ramadan miracle,” referring to the Muslim fasting month which started over the weekend.

Last week, al-Hashd al-Shaabi troops resumed the second phase of operations, launched earlier this month, to liberate the remaining villages in the vicinity of Qairawan and Baaj, after the troops announced full liberation of Qairawan.

Many villages in Qairawan region, a main Islamic State bastion which links between Tal Afar town and the Syrian borders, have been freed since the troops launched an offensive on May 12 to free the region.

The campaign in Baaj runs simultaneously with government troops operations in Mosul.

PMUs, an alliance of more than 60 mostly Shia militias, are recognized by the government as a national force under the Prime Minister’s command.

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