KIRKUK, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – A Hashd al-Shaabi spokesperson on Monday slammed Turkey, stating their group will take part in the military campaign to control the Turkmen majority town of Tal Afar in western Mosul.
After liberating Mosul on July 10, Iraqi security forces are preparing to launch a military operation to retake Tal Afar, a town occupied by the Islamic State (IS) since mid-2014.
In a live broadcasted interview with Kurdistan 24, Ahmed al-Assadi, the spokesperson of the Hashd al-Shaabi said they would participate in the Tal Afar offensive alongside the federal army and police forces.
Tal Afar is a Turkmen majority town located 60 kilometers from west Mosul, 56 kilometers far from Syria, and 82 kilometers from the Turkish border.
Assadi’s remarks came two days after Turkey announced they were against Hashd al-Shaabi’s, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), participation in retaking Tal Afar.
The PMF is a Shia force backed by Iran and formed at the end of 2014 to protect the Shia shrines in central and southern Iraq from IS attacks.
The militia consists of 50 Shia groups which officially became part of the Iraqi national forces in late 2016.
Assadi mentioned Hashd al-Shaabi had currently surrounded most of Tal Afar’s fronts, including the south, south west, and south east of the town.
He noted the military campaign would be on a massive scale involving other nearby towns including al-Muhalabiyah, al-Ayadiyah, and dozens of other villages.
According to the PMF spokesperson, the joint operation command will set the plan and identify the forces that will take over the center of the town.
The Hashd al-Shaabi spokesperson added the Tal Afar plan had not been completed yet.
Regarding Turkey’s objection to the PMF’s role in the military operation, Assadi stressed it was an Iraqi affair and not related to any other countries.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has described the PMF as a “terrorist organization,” blaming the force of working against Tal Afar which he claims is an important town for his country.
There have been many accusations against the PMF by Sunni officials and human rights organizations who accuse the group of committing war crimes in the past three years while battling IS.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany