Iraqi Shia militias launch offensive toward Tal Afar
Forces from the Hashed al-Shaabi, a paramilitary umbrella organisation dominated by Iran-backed Shia militias, have largely been on the sidelines since the operation to retake Mosul from the Islamic State group was launched last week.
On Saturday Hashed al-Shaabi announced it had launched an attack to the city’s west in order to capture the influential town of Tal Afar as well as the smaller towns of Hatra and Tal Abta.
"Divisions of Hashed al-Shaabi are advancing towards villages to the west of Mosul in order to release it from the elements of IS, there has been no resistance from the enemy yet," said Ahmed al-Assadi, a spokesperson for the group.
The operation will involve thousands of fighters, who have separated in three different directions with the aim of cutting supply lines to the major city of Mosul.
The involvement of Shia militias in the Mosul offensive has been a source of frustration for various coalition members, including the Iraqi Kurds and Sunni Arabs.
Some military leaders have expressed concerns over Iran’s increased military presence in Iraq, however Hashed al-Shaabi leaders have promised they will not enter into the city of Mosul itself.US military intelligence identified Tal Afar as a major IS stronghold in March 2016, adding that senior IS commanders had sent their family members there to protect them from the worst of the conflict.