The Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), an Iraqi state-sponsored umbrella organization composed of a number of Shia and Sunni Muslim, Christian and Yazidi militias, said on Sunday it had dislodged Islamic State (IS) from a number of villages west of Mosul, scoring further progress towards the border with Syria.
The villages taken by the Popular Mobilisation paramilitary force include Kojo, where Islamic State fighters abducted hundreds of Yazidi women in 2014, including Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar, recipients of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought.
Kojo and the other villages of the Shingal mountain region will be returned to the Yazidi community, a PMU leader, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, told Iraqi state television.
Mahdi Mahdis, the PMU commander, and the commander of the Mosul offensive Abdulamir Rashid Yarallah, visited the village, south of the Yezidi town of Shingal on Saturday, PMU media reported.
“We feel happy and sad of the liberation of this village that faced the murder of its entire people at the hands of ISIS,” Muhandis said in Kojo, as quoted by Rudaw.
“The Hashd (PMU) was able to liberate the village with the support of Yezidi fighters,” Muhandis added, calling the village “the symbol of the Yezidi tragedy.” Muhandis also said that the PMU forces will stay in the village to provide support to the Yezidi fighters in Kojo.
According to reports on Monday, the PMU launched offensives against IS controlled al-Qahtaniya, Kari Tatar, Birki and reached, or is about to reach, areas controlled by the Shingal Resistance Units (YBS) and the Shingal Women’s Resistance Units (YJS). Some reports claimed PMU completely control al-Qahtaniya.
The PMU thus has, or is close to, linking up its territory with those of the YBS/YJS, who are working under the umbrella of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) together with Syrian People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The Kurdish controlled territories were some time ago linked up with those of the army of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
This development would, according to the US and others, result in an “Iranian corridor” to Syria, as the PMU is a Shi’ite dominated force allegedly backed by Iran.
A PMU spokesman recently denied that there was such a plan.
“Iran is very far from Iraq, and this statement is not right. This is just propaganda to blacken the Mosul operation. This is a wrong statement, and an interference in Iraqi internal affairs,” he told ARA News.
Commentators have said that US President Donald Trump is working to put together a coalition including Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Gulf States, that can penetrate into Syria in order to cut off the suspected Iranian supply lines to Damascus and the Lebanese Hezbollah.
The spokesman also said PMU were coordinating with the Iraqi government and not with the US, despite that the US-led coalition has carried out airstrikes in areas where PMU is active.
“There is no coordination between us and the US, but the Iraqi government has coordination with them,” he said adding that “There are air strikes, but we only have support from the Iraqi government who support us with air strikes.”