By Ali Jawad
Shia militiamen on Monday, in coordination with the Iraqi army's Joint Operations Command, launched the third phase of an ongoing operation to retake areas east of Tal Afar city (some 65 kilometers west of Mosul) from the Daesh terrorist group, according to an Iraqi army officer.
"Hashd al-Shabi units have begun advancing on Tal Afar in the operation’s third and final phase," Iraqi army officer Jabbar Hassan told Anadolu Agency.
Established in mid-2014, the Hashd al-Shaabi is an umbrella group of pro-government Shia militias drawn up specifically to fight Daesh.
"Supported by Iraqi warplanes, the operation is being coordinated and supervised by the army’s Joint Operations Command," Hassan said.
"Hashd al-Shaabi units now stand some 25 kilometers southeast of Tal Afar," he added.
On Oct. 29, the Hashd al-Shaabi began operations aimed at "liberating" areas west of Daesh-held Mosul.
On the same day, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan voiced concerns about the approach of Shia militiamen towards the Tal Afar district.
"Tal Afar is a very sensitive issue for us," Erdogan said. "We definitely do not regard it [Hashd al-Shaabi involvement in the campaign to capture Mosul] positively in Tal Afar and Sinjar."
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu recently declared that Turkey would take "all precautionary measures allowed by international law" if the Hashd al-Shaabi threatened Turkey’s security in Tal Afar.
Tal Afar is a Turkmen-majority city in Iraq’s northern Nineveh province, of which Mosul is the provincial capital.
Ankara has repeatedly warned of the risk of sectarian conflict if Shia militiamen are allowed to enter Sunni-majority Mosul.
In other parts of Iraq recently taken from Daesh by the Hashd al-Shaabi, including both Fallujah and Ramadi, there have been allegations of Shia fighters mistreating local Sunni residents.
Last month, the Iraqi army -- backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and local allies on the ground -- launched a wide-ranging operation aimed at retaking Mosul.
Once Iraq’s second largest city in terms of population, Mosul was overran by Daesh in mid-2014, along with vast swathes of territory in northern and western Iraq.
Recent months have seen the Iraqi army and its allies retake much territory from the terrorist group, especially on Mosul’s outskirts and in Iraq’s western Anbar province.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.