Baghdad- In an effort to scale down tensions with neighboring Turkey, Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi confirmed that the controversial Popular Mobilization Forces, a paramilitary Shi’ite militia, will not be partaking in the offensive to free Tal Afar from ISIS hold.
PM Abadi has been fighting a media tug of war with Turkey officials, which saw to unprecedented escalatory statements exchanged between Ankara and Baghdad.
Judge Asghar al-Musawi, one of al-Shabak leaders in Nineveh, said that the decision taken by Mr. Abadi is wise because it neutralized threats of an untimely confrontation with Turkey.
Turkey has warned the Shiite forces against entering Tal Afar, for fear the Shiite militia would brutalize the town’s population, which is largely Turkmen and a mix of Sunnis and Shiites.
Earlier this week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country opposed any PMF presence in Tal Afar.
“Tal Afar is a very sensitive issue for us. We definitely do not regard it [PMF involvement] positively in Tal Afar and Sinjar. I already told this to officials clearly,” Erdogan said Saturday.
“Tal Afar is a totally Turkmen city, with half Shiite and half Sunni Muslims. We do not judge people by their religious affiliation, we regard them as Muslims,” he added. “But if the PMF terrorizes the region, our response would be different.”
More so, Iraqi forces have retaken six neighborhoods from ISIS extremists in eastern Mosul, army sources said. U.N. reports also revealed that ISIS hardliners are forcing Mosul civilians to hand in their youth for recruitment.
In a statement, an Iraqi commander noted that the national flag had been raised over government buildings in recaptured areas.
Late Thursday, Iraq’s Defense Ministry announced that, over the course of the last four days, 125 ISIS militants had been killed and 24 villages and areas in Nineveh province — of which Mosul is the regional capital — had been wrested from the extremist group.
On Oct. 18, the Iraqi army — backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes — launched a wide-ranging operation aimed at retaking Mosul, which ISIS overran in mid-2014.