Nineveh (IraqiNews.com) Large troop reinforcements arrived on early Thursday in western Mosul preparing for a new phase of operations by pro-Iraqi government militias against Islamic State militants.
A statement by the media service of al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Units) said the reinforcements arrived late Wednesday preparing for the “sixth phase” of operations in western Mosul.
Last November, al-Hashd al-Shaabi ended a fifth phase of their operations by retaking a military airbase and besieging the strategic IS stronghold town of Tal Afar.But news concerning the militias’ intention to invade the town were conflicting.Fears have been voiced by regional Sunni powers, such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, that the involvement of the Shia-predominated al-Hashd in Tal Afar’s liberation could result into sectarian consequences with the Sunni residents of the town.
Since operations to retake Mosul launched in October, Iraqi forces, backed by an aerial cover from a US-led military coalition, have become in control over nearly 50 out of 84 districts in eastern Mosul, and commanders declared earlier this week they had reached the eastern bank of the Tigris River, which bisects the city.IS still maintains strongholds in the west.
Iraqi military media have put the number of IS militants killed since the launch of operations in October at at least 1757.
The conflict in Mosul has forced more than 173.000 civilians to flee homes in the city.