AFP file photo of the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi militias.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Shiite-led Hashd al-Shaabi militia said Thursday that its forces are 15 kilometers from Tal Afar, a Turkmen town that Turkey has warned the militia to stay clear of.
“The Hashd al-Shaabi are continuously advancing and we are just 15 kilometers from Tal Afar” and nearing the Mosul-Raqqa road, Karim Nuri, spokesperson of the Hashd al-Shaabi, told Rudaw.
He said he hoped that “in a few hours” his forces will be in control of the Mosul-Raqqa road, a critical supply line for the two ISIS strongholds in Iraq and Syria.
Nuri said the Iranian-backed Hashd had not received any air support from the coalition, which had from the outset opposed any role for the militia in the Mosul offensive.
Tal Afar, north of Mosul city, is a predominantly Turkmen town that was captured by ISIS two years ago when the group captured large swathes of land in the north.
Turkey has warned Hashd forces from entering Tal Afar, for fear the Shiite militia would brutalize the town’s population, which is divided between Sunnis and Shiites.
Earlier this week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country opposed any Hashd presence in Tal Afar.
“Tal Afar is a very sensitive issue for us. We definitely do not regard it [Hashd involvement] positively in Tal Afar and Sinjar. I already told this to officials clearly,” Erdogan said Saturday.
“Tal Afar is a totally Turkmen city, with half Shiite and half Sunni Muslims. We do not judge people by their religious affiliation, we regard them as Muslims,” he added, “But if Hashd al-Shaabi terrorizes the region, our response would be different.”