Baghdad and Erbil – Iraqi troops and security forces in Mosul are closing on the southern fronts of the city. Yet, a leader at one of the Shiite militias, recently participated in the battle, warned that the war on ISIS will be exhaustive and long.
A military statement said that Iraqi Army’s Ninth Armored Division liberated Ali Rash village, 7 Km southeast of Mosul, and hoisted the Iraqi flag.
Iraqi Army, Security Forces, Peshmerga Kurdish Forces, and Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) are trying to besiege Mosul and crush ISIS in the largest city under the control of the terrorist organization of its self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
Mosul battle could become one of the toughest battles in a decade of instability in Iraq since the U.S. invasion in 2003 that ousted Saddam Hussein.
Earlier, militias of thousands of Iran-backed Iraqi Shiites, collectively known as Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), announced its advancement toward Mosul. Their target is to seize the town of Tal Afar, 55 km west of Mosul, from ISIS. That would cut off any chance for the extremists to retreat their positioning to Syria or receive reinforcements.
Hadi al-Amiri, head of the Badr Organization, the most powerful group within PMF, said that there is cooperation between the army, federal police, PMF and counter-terrorism forces and also the local tribes. Speaking in the village of Ain Nasir west of the Tigris, Amiri said: “The battle of Mosul will not be a picnic. It needs time, it needs precision, and it needs a deep breath.”
Amiri, who according to Reuters was wearing military fatigues and wrapped his face in a white checked headscarf to protect himself against the wind and sand, confirmed that ISIS already launched waves of suicide car bombs, roadside bombs and sniper attacks to slow down the advancing forces.
“We are prepared for the battle of Mosul even if it lasts for months,” confirmed Amiri.
Meanwhile, an Iraqi security official said that ISIS has been reinforcing Tal Afar in the last 48 hours in anticipation of the offensive on town which highlights its strategic importance.
“Intelligence reports show that ISIS groups have entered TOW missiles systems into Tal Afar. It’s obvious they are making preparations for a long protracted battle,” the official from the provincial military operation command center told Reuters.
His comments could not be independently verified but a resident of Mosul, told Reuters over the phone, said relatives in Tal Afar reported seeing increasing numbers of ISIS fighters in the town, some of them patrolling on motorbikes.
Since launching their advance towards Tal Afar on Saturday, PMF have taken over several villages in an area about 60KM southeast of their final target.
The Kurdish Peshmerga said in a statement on Sunday they had cleared at least 28 villages north and east of Mosul since the start of the offensive.
Following the Fatwa of Religious Authority Ali Sistani, PMF was formed in 2014 and officially reports to Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, but has very close links to Iran.
Human rights groups have warned of possible sectarian violence if PMF militias seized areas where Sunni Muslims form a majority, which is the case in much of northern and western Iraq.