The war to liberate the Iraqi city of Mosul from the so called Islamic State began earlier this month. So far, the Iraqi security forces and its allies who have been marching to the city from the south have liberated 11 neighbouring villages from IS. The latest attack launched by one of the Shia militia groups in Iraq’s camp has been on the west side of Mosul.
The aim of the attack is to liberate the town of Tal Afar from IS and by doing so break the supply routes to Mosul. While the Shia militias have promised that they will not enter the city of Mosul, which is a primarily Sunni city, Tal Afar however was a Shia city before the IS occupied it in 2014.
Mosul was the de facto base of operations for IS in Iraq ever since it came to prominence in 2014. The city which is mentioned in Islamic prophesies was used in propaganda to legitimise IS’s claim over the area it occupied. The Iraqi security forces, Kurdish Pashmerga fighters and its allies, which are supported by NATO’s airstrikes, have stated that to win back Mosul would not be a strategic victory but a symbolic one. It has also been repeatedly stated by all of the parties involved that the battle for Mosul would be long process which could take months.
The latest operation on Tal Afar was aimed to cut the supply routes to Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria and by doing so besiege the city of Mosul further. The concern behind Shia militia’s operation against IS has been that of past reports of atrocities committed by the militia against Sunni civilians.
The news of this intensified offense comes at the heels of reports that IS had been abducting thousands of people within Mosul to use them as Human shields, according to the UN. There have also been reports of over 300 security forces and civilians being executed by IS out of suspicion.