ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) — Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Saturday announced that operations to liberate Hawija and Tal Afar from the Islamic State (IS) would soon start.
In a meeting with the Hashd al-Shaabi, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), leadership, Abadi discussed the importance of Iraqi sovereignty and described the operations as helping “reconstruct the stability of our country [Iraq].”
Abadi stressed that the operations would aim to strengthen Iraq’s security and borders and dismissed any rumors that Iraqi forces would be crossing into other countries’ territories.
“Our troops on the border believe in our boundaries and will not cross them,” he said in the meeting.
Hashd al-Shaabi forces are currently controlling areas west of Mosul all the way up to the Syrian border, including the town of Baaj, except for Tal Afar.
“Our forces are awaiting directives from the Prime Minister and Supreme Armed Forces Commander, Haider al-Abadi, to retake Tal Afar,” Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy chief of the Hashd al-Shaabi added on Saturday.
The town of Tal Afar lies between Mount Sinjar (Shingal) and Mosul and is one of the last main IS bastion west of Mosul.
The Hawija operation had previously been delayed until after Mosul was liberated. The town is located west of Kirkuk and considered one of the last IS strongholds in Iraq.
Jihadist militants from Hawija have launched numerous attacks against Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Kirkuk and are viewed as a major threat to Kirkuk’s security and stability.