Mosul- The Shi’ite Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) have given up their position at the Tal Afar airbase after a short stay, reported Iraqi security sources.
Tal Afar is a town that lies some 60 kilometers west of Mosul on the main road to Syria. Its former seizure by PMF units alarmed Turkey, which is wary of Iraqi Shi’ite involvement in the civil war in Syria.
PMF units had escaped the location after discovering that the airbase had been left as a hazardous minefield by ISIS militants–land mines were randomly planted across the base before ISIS hardliners had evacuated the premise.
Before PMF units abandoned the Tal Afar airbase many losses were encountered as the result of random detonation of the mines, among which were top commanders.
“PMF units had pushed against two villages nearby the airbase, imposing its control over the area—successfully cutting off a great part of the connecting road between Mosul and Syria’s Raqqa,” a source, who only spoke under conditions of anonymity, said.
Earlier this week many reports came on Mosul families fleeing the fighting into Syrian territory.
More so, mounting civilian casualties from fighting in eastern Mosul between Iraqi forces and ISIS ultra-hardlines are overwhelming the capacity of the government and international aid groups, the United Nations said on Saturday.
Nearly 200 wounded civilians and military personnel were transferred to hospital last week, the highest level since the campaign to push the extremists out of their last major stronghold in Iraq began on Oct. 17, said Lise Grande, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq.
“We are very worried that more and more civilians will be hurt and victimized as the campaign intensifies,” said Grande. “Civilians are not being caught in cross-fire, they are being targeted.”
Militants are dug in among more than a million civilians as a defense tactic to hamper air strikes. They are moving around the city through tunnels, driving suicide car bombs into advancing troops and hitting them with sniper and mortar fire.
More than one month after the start of the battle for Mosul, the United Nations reports a marked increase in the number of people fleeing densely-populated urban areas of the beleaguered Iraqi city.
U.N. data shows nearly half of those fleeing their homes in Mosul are children. Women, girls and female-headed households, who make up much of the rest, often are survivors of human rights abuses.