Turkey deploys tanks to Silopi across from Iraq
ANKARATurkish Armed Forces have begun deploying tanks and other armored vehicles from the Ankara-based 28th Mechanized Infantry Brigade to Silopi in Şırnak near the border with Iraq, Anadolu Agency reported Nov. 1, three days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the country would reinforce its troops along its border.
“We have to be ready for any possibility,” Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Işık said on Nov. 1, recalling the fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and “significant developments on the other side of the Turkish border.”
The deployment is designed to be ready for these developments, he stated.
Turkey will reinforce its troop deployments in the border town of Silopi amid a possible Shiite offensive to liberate Tal Afar, which has a sizeable ethnic Turkmen population and is considered a sensitive target for Ankara, Erdoğan had said.
“If al-Hashd al-Shaabi [Shiite militia] causes terror there in [Tal Afar], our response to it will be different,” Erdoğan said Oct. 29.
The deployment coincides with an Iraqi operation to drive Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) from the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and after Iraqi Shiite militias launched a related offensive to push the jihadists out of the town of Tal Afar further west.
The al-Hashd al-Shaabi, a paramilitary umbrella organization by Iran-backed Shiite militias, announced on Oct. 29 that they had launched an attack against ISIL militants west of Mosul, two weeks after an offensive to retake the city began.
“The operation aims to cut supplies between Mosul and Raqqa and tighten the siege [of ISIL] in Mosul and liberate Tal Afar,” militia spokesman Ahmed al-Assadi told AFP Oct. 29, referring to ISIL’s main strongholds in Iraq and Syria. Al-Assadi said the operation aimed to retake the towns of Hatra and Tal Abta as well as Tal Afar.
Ankara has warned against such a move towards Tal Afar, which is some 170 kilometers from Silopi and home to a sizeable ethnic Turkmen population with historic and cultural ties to Turkey.
Şırnak province is also one of the main areas of conflict between the Turkish military and PKK militants, who have bases in northern Iraq.
Turkey had reinforced its troops in the Karkamış district just before an offensive to retake Syria’s Jarablus from ISIL in late August within the scope of the Euphrates Shield Operation.
Iraq forces enter jihadist-held Mosul, says military
Meanwhile, Iraqi forces fought their way into jihadist-held Mosul yesterday, “entering the Judaidat Al-Mufti area,” the Joint Operations Command said in a statement, while Staff General Taleb Sheghati al-Kenani, the commander of Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) said the “true liberation” of the city from ISIL had begun.
Elite Iraqi forces had also recaptured the key village of Gogjali and taken control of a television station building on the eastern edge of the city.
ISIL is “forcibly transferring some 25,000 civilians towards locations in and around Mosul,” a spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Nov. 1.
“We have reports that in the early hours of yesterday morning, around 1.00 a.m. [10:00 p.m.m GMT Oct. 30] ISIL brought dozens of long trucks and mini-buses to Hamam al-Alil City, south of Mosul, in an attempt to forcibly transfer some 25,000 civilians towards locations in and around Mosul,” OHCHR spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said in a press conference.