Middle East

Shia militiamen amass west of Daesh-held Mosul

Move sparks fears of sectarian tension, conflict in ethnically-diverse city

Mahmoud Barakat   | 25.10.2016
Shia militiamen amass west of Daesh-held Mosul

Iraq

Ali Sheikho and Ali Jawad

BAGHDAD

Thousands of Hashd al-Shaabi militiamen have amassed to the west of Mosul amid preparations to help retake the city from the Daesh terrorist group, a Hashd al-Shaabi leader announced Tuesday.

Jawad al-Talebawi, a spokesman for the Asaib Ahl al-Haq, a militant faction within the Hashd al-Shaabi, told Anadolu Agency that the group was preparing to launch "a major operation to free the Tel Afar district [west of Mosul] from Daesh and cut the road linking the city to Syria".

"We’re ready," al-Talebawi said. "We’re just waiting for the Hashd al-Shaabi leadership to give the go-ahead."

Established in 2014, the Hashd al-Shaabi is an umbrella group of pro-government Shia militias drawn up specifically to fight Daesh.

According to al-Talebawi, the Hashd al-Shaabi leadership has specifically tasked the Asaib Ahl al-Haq with recapturing the Tel Afar district.

Most Sunni forces participating in the campaign to free Mosul do not want the Shia Hashd al-Shaabi to play any role in the operation, fearing such a move could lead to sectarian tension -- and possibly conflict -- in the ethnically diverse city.

One week ago, Iraqi forces, backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, launched a much-anticipated offensive to retake Mosul.

Daesh’s last stronghold in northern Iraq, Mosul -- Iraq’s second largest city -- was overrun by the terrorist group in mid-2014.

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