Iraqi volunteer fighters say will join army battle for Mosul
A group of Iraqi volunteer forces, known as the Popular Mobilization Units, says it will join an ongoing operation by the Iraqi army to liberate the northern city of Mosul from Daesh Takfiri terrorists.
Jawad al-Talabawi, a spokesman for the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq volunteer forces, said in an interview on Wednesday that the anti-Daesh military operation in Mosul, the capital of northern Nineveh Province, would require the participation of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a coalition of mostly Shia Muslim fighters.
“We think the battle to liberate Mosul will be huge, complex; it will be about guerrilla warfare in built-up areas, which only PMF fighters are good at …, as forces may be fighting house to house, room to room,” Talabawi said.
This comes as the Iraqi armed forces have already launched an offensive to recapture the country’s second-largest city of Mosul, which has served as the main Daesh stronghold since 2014.
However, the offensive meant to bring the Iraqi army closer to Mosul has been put on hold two weeks after its launch in March, until more forces arrive to hold ground.
The military operation is the first phase of a large-scale offensive that Baghdad plans to conclude in 2016 with the full recapture of Mosul. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has declared 2016 the year of “final victory” over Daesh terrorists.
Talabawi further suggested that popular volunteer forces take the lead in Mosul’s liberation operation, saying that the Iraqi army could make effective advancements on the ground only with air cover and heavy bombardment.
Home to around two million people before its capture, Mosul fell to the extremist militants in the earliest days of their emergence in June 2014. Since then, the northern and western parts of Iraq have been plagued by violence fueled by the terror group.
Popular Mobilization Units, formed after the rise of Daesh in Iraq in 2014, have joined forces with the army to liberate Daesh-held areas.
The volunteer fighters have played an important role in strengthening the army, which initially suffered heavy losses amid quick advances by the Takfiri terrorists.
In their latest gains against Daesh, Iraqi army forces managed to enter the town of Hit in the western Anbar province on Monday as they push to fully liberate the area.
The operation to retake the small town — initially launched last month — was stalled by tens of thousands of trapped civilians.
The army earlier said that the terrorists had planted hundreds of roadside bombs and booby traps along main roads leading in and out of the city.
The town lies over 140 kilometers west of the capital Baghdad, on a supply line linking the terrorists in Iraq to those in neighboring Syria. Daesh terrorists have been in control of the city for the past 18 months.
The armed forces have retaken some key towns and villages, including Tikrit and Baiji in Salahuddin Province and the city of Ramadi, the capital of the western province of Anbar.