Iraq’s Iran-backed paramilitary advances toward Syria border

Iraq’s Iran-backed paramilitary advances toward Syria border
Iraqi forces advance in Mosul's western al-Saha neighborhood during their ongoing battle to retake the area from Daesh group on Sunday. (AFP / KARIM SAHIB)
Updated 28 May 2017

Iraq’s Iran-backed paramilitary advances toward Syria border

Iraq’s Iran-backed paramilitary advances toward Syria border

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s Iran-backed Shiite paramilitary force said on Sunday it had dislodged Daesh militants from a number of villages west of Mosul, scoring further progress toward the border with Syria.
The villages taken by the Popular Mobilization paramilitary force include Kojo, where Daesh fighters abducted hundreds of Yazidi women in 2014, including Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar, recipients of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought.
Kojo and the other villages of the Sinjar mountain region will be returned to the Yazidi community, a Popular Mobilization leader, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, told Iraqi state television. Popular Mobilization is taking part in the US-backed Iraqi campaign to defeat Daesh in Mosul and the surrounding province of Nineveh. The force reports nominally to Iraq’s Shiite-led government and has Iranian military advisers.
Iraq’s government is aiming to control the border area with Syria in coordination with the Iranian-backed army of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Linking up the two sides would give Assad a significant advantage in fighting the six-year rebellion against his rule.
The region immediately alongside the border on the Iraqi side is either under the control of Daesh or Kurdish forces. Daesh also controls parts of Syria.
Iraqi government armed forces are focusing their effort on dislodging insurgents from the city of Mosul, Daesh’s de-facto capital in Iraq.
Since the campaign started in October, the insurgents have lost the city except for an enclave alongside the western bank of the Tigris river.
On Saturday Iraqi forces launched an operation to capture the enclave, which includes the densely populated Old City center and three adjacent districts.
The fall of the city would, in effect, mark the end of the Iraqi half of the “caliphate” declared nearly three years ago by Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi from Mosul. (Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli)