Nineveh (IraqiNews.com) Al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Units) began Sunday an invasion of western Mosul areas coincidentally with Iraqi government forces which launched a new stage of offensives against Islamic State militants in that region.
The Defense Ministry’s War Media Cell said the PMUs 26th Brigade embarked on an offensive targeting western Mosul areas starting from Irbeed region, bringing down IS defenses there. Al-Hashd’s media service, meanwhile, said the forces advanced towards the liberation of Tal Kaisoum, an area on the road between central Mosul and the strategic town of Tal Afar.
Al-Hashd al-Shaabi, an alliance of volunteer Shia militias, has been active in western Mosul since operations to retake the city launched in October. It had made significant gains by besieging IS’s stronghold at the town of Tal Afar and cutting the group’s supply lines from Syria. The force, which received recognition as a national armed force, had, however, faced accusations of human rights violations.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a brief announcement earlier on Sunday that security forces launched an operation to retake the western side of Mosul, Islamic State militants’ largest stronghold in Iraq which the group took over in 2014. He said on January 24th that government forces, backed by popular militias and U.S.-led coalition troops, had cleared the whole of the eastern region from militants after more than three months of fighting.
Also on Sunday, military media said army and Federal Police forces recaptured the villages of Azba and Bakhira, as well as Lazzagah power station near the Tigris River.
Recapturing Mosul would represent the strongest blow to Islamic State’s proclaimed “Islamic Caliphate”. Iraqi and international coalition generals had predicted the western part of the city to be fully recaptured within six months.
The conflict in Mosul has so far displaced at least 191.000 civilians, and the United Nations has recently warned of mass displacements affecting nearly 250.000 out of 750.000 civilians as operations aim at the western region.