Iraqi paramilitaries say reached airport west of Mosul
REUTERS photoIraqi paramilitary forces, the al-Hashd al-Shaabi, announced Nov. 16 that they had entered the Tal Afar airport west of Mosul and were fighting to clear pockets of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadists inside it.
The airport is located some six kilometers (four miles) south of the town of Tal Afar, the ultimate target of an operation billed as an attempt to cut off jihadists in Mosul from territory they control farther west.
Fighting towards Tal Afar has so far been the main task for the al-Hashd al-Shaabi, an umbrella organization for pro-government paramilitaries that is dominated by Iran-backed Shiite militias, in the massive operation aimed at recapturing Mosul that was launched on Oct. 17.
“An operation to pursue pockets of [ISIL] hiding inside the airport is happening now,” al-Hashd al-Shaabi spokesman Ahmed al-Assadi said in a statement, AFP reported.
The airport will be “a launch point for al-Hashd al-Shaabi forces to liberate the center of the Tal Afar district, and cut the last [ISIL] supply lines between Mosul and Tal Afar,” Assadi said.
Al-Hashd al-Shaabi forces have been pushing their way toward Tal Afar from starting points south of Mosul for more than two weeks, retaking a series of villages from ISIL along the way.
There has been opposition both inside and outside Iraq to the idea of Shiite militia forces, which have been repeatedly accused of rights violations against Sunnis, being involved in the battle for predominantly Sunni Arab Mosul.
Meanwhile, wounded civilians continued to stream out of the east of Mosul as Iraqi government forces battled ISIL fighters on the streets.
The first casualties began arriving at a field clinic on the city’s eastern edge after a mortar attack at around 11:00 am (8:00 a.m. GMT), filling its nine blood-stained cots within minutes.
Others were forced to sit on plastic chairs or lie on rugs in the dirt awaiting treatment. Mortar fire and bombs killed three children and wounded more than two dozen people on the morning of Nov. 17 alone, one of the clinic’s staff, Hossam al-Nuri, told AFP.