Baaj (IraqiNews.com) Areas west of Mosul and along the borders with Syria will be free from the Islamic State within two days, a senior paramilitary leader said Wednesday as operations to take hold of the borderline approach final victory.
Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, deputy chief of the Popular Mobilization Units, said the area west of Mosul will be liberated in two days. “Baaj region, which Popular Mobilization purged completely, was the last bastion for Daesh (Islamic State) criminals,” Mohandes said in his statement. “What is left are small regions that shall be liberated within the coming two days.”
Mohandes singled out Tal Afar, a major IS entrenchment west of Mosul, from those areas, saying his forces were still awaiting Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s orders to invade the enclave.
“Popular Mobilization will take hold of the Iraqi-Syrian borders over the coming days. A part of those borders is under the control of Kurdish Syrian fighters,” Mohandes said, referring to the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.
Operations by the Popular Mobilization Units have recently managed to impose control over villages along the borderline with Syria and took over Baaj and Qairawan regions, major IS hideouts. Meanwhile, government troops have become closer to retaking Mosul, Islamic State’s previously-proclaimed capital, where a campaign has been running since October 2016 and recently cornered a few hundreds of militants in the western side of the city.
Islamic State militants have been holding the Tal Afar town since 2014, and pro-government Popular Mobilization Units have been recapturing areas around the enclave, and isolated it from Mosul and Syria preparing for an invasion which the JOC has not yet decided whether it would assign to paramilitary or government troops.
A controversy has been in place about whether the Shia-led, Iran-trained Popular Mobilization force would pass the Syrian borders to give leverage to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces against IS and other and rebel groups. A mobilization forces spokesperson said last week that the troops would not take the step unless with an Iraqi parliament green light. U.S.-backed Kurdish Syrian forces fighting the Islamic State had warned the organization against crossing the borders. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi also said Tuesday that such a move would violate the constitution.