Baghdad, July 29 (IANS) Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Saturday declared a new plan to liberate Tal Afar town from the Islamic State group.
“I have put forward a plan to liberate Tal Afar with the participation of all (kinds of) security services, in addition to the Hashd Shaabi and Asha’iry (tribal units),” Xinhua news agency quoted Abadi as saying.
Abadi did not say to what extent the Hashd Shaabi would participate in the liberation of the ethnically mixed town of Tal Afar, some 70 km west of Mosul, as they were forced earlier to participate only in the open land outside Mosul, not inside the Sunni city.
The participation of the predominantly Shia paramilitary units in the ethnically mixed region in northern Iraq, where Sunni Muslims form a majority, could spark sectarian tension with Sunni Arabs, Turkomans and other minorities.
The neighbouring Sunni state of Turkey also has concerns about the participation of the Shia dominated Hashd Shaabi, because Turkey does not want the Iraqi campaign to drive the IS from Tal Afar to change the ethnic composition of the region, which is predominantly Sunni.
Abadi also urged the political parties to act in a way similar to the army’s leaders, who were racing to achieve their main goal of defeating the IS, instead of fighting each other for political gains.
“We want national political parties similar to the army’s leaders in their race to defeat Daesh (IS),” Abadi said, adding “the world states participated and supported Iraq in its war against terrorism because they found a real determination to fight Daesh”.
On July 10, Abadi officially declared Mosul liberated from the IS after nearly nine months of fierce fighting to dislodge the extremist militants from their last major stronghold in Iraq.
Iraqi military officials later in the month said that after Mosul’s liberation the troops will advance westward to free Tal Afar, the last IS redoubt in Nineveh province. The town fell to the extremist group in 2014.