Mobilization units set on operations to clear western Mosul road from IS

Al-Hashd al-Shaabi fighter in Tal Afar.

Nineveh ( Al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Units) said Wednesday they launched an offensive to clear the road linking the strategic towns of Tal Afar and Sinjar in western Mosul from Islamic State militants.

The force’s media service said the “complementary” operation sat on from the region of Ein Hussan to clear the road between the two towns located near the borders with Syria.

Since its formation in 2014 Al-Hashd al-Shaabi has been actively involved in the Iraqi government’s fight against Islamic State militants. PMUs have been active around Islamic State’s supply lines coming from Syria, and had achieved a remarkable victory in November when they recaptured the Tal Afar military airport.The conglomerate of dozens of Shia volunteer militias won state recognition as a national armed force in November.

Iraqi government forces, backed by PMUs and a U.S.-led international military coalition, have been fighting Islamic State since mid October to retake the city of Mosul, the group’s largest bastion in Iraq which fell in its grip in 2014.

Operations have so far managed to recapture the whole eastern section of the city, and preparations are underway to invade the west, where military commanders predict a tougher battle.

PMUs’ involvement in Tal Afar has been a controversial issue as Sunni regional players such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia had voiced fears that their participation in battles for the mostly-Sunni town could have sectarian consequences. The Iraqi government has reiterated its confidence in al-Hashd’s commitment.

Sinjar is, meanwhile, inhabited by a multi-sect population.

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