ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) – The Hashd al-Shaabi on Friday announced the launch of a military operation to liberate the Islamic State-held town of al-Qairawan in west Mosul.
The move is considered to be the second phase of the operation following a recent offensive on Hadher town, located southwest of Mosul.
In a statement published on their website, Hashd al-Shaabi, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), stated that they launched the offensive on five fronts to liberate surrounding villages.
“Our forces are engaged in fierce battles" with the jihadist group in the area, the statement added.
al-Qairawan is located southeast of Sinjar (Shingal) city and to the far west of Talafar town. According to the PMF, al-Qairawan is a strategic point of contact for the IS leadership between Iraq and Syria.
The PMF campaign aims to retake al-Qairawan and the surrounding villages and create a corridor to the Syrian border, according to analysts.
The Kurdistan24 Correspondent in Mosul, Zardasht Hame, stated the Iraqi army’s air force participated in the Hashd al-Shaabi campaign.
The Hashd al-Shaabi’s offensive also aims at liberating the town of al-Baaj near al-Qairawan, the Commander of Nineveh Liberation Campaign Abdel-Amir Rashid Yarallah said in a statement on Friday.
In a separate statement, Yarallah mentioned that the PMF stormed the village of Umm al-Shabait in north al-Qairawan and that the clashes are ongoing.
Sunni politicians in Iraq have repeatedly asked the Iraqi federal government to prevent Shia forces from launching operations to retake areas from IS in northern Sunni areas, fearing sectarian-motivated abuses.
The PMF was formed in late 2014 mainly to protect the Shia shrines from attacks by IS. Iraqi forces have relied on the PMF to liberate areas from the jihadist group, including Tikrit and its surroundings as well as Fallujah, and in the Ninevah Province.
Editing by G.H. Renaud