In Mosul Shia militias block path for "Caliph" al Baghdadi’s flight

Al-Hashd Al-Sha'abi forces yesterday joined the battle against Daesh. Their aim is to cut off the escape routes to the east (Syria) and north (Turkey). However, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who is trying to reach Raqqa, might also be their target. Video shows a Daesh militiaman speaking about a deal between Erbil and Ankara to divide the territories east and west of Mosul.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – The battle for the liberation of Mosul, capital of Nineveh province, had two conditions: the first was that attacks would come only from the south and the east, leaving the way open to the west towards Syria and the north towards Turkey; the second was a tacit agreement by all the parties to keep out the predominantly Shia Al-Hashd Al-Sha'abi (People's Mobilisation Forces) so as not to give Turkey an alibi to intervene to defend Sunnis and the Fitna.

In a single move, the Al-Hashd Al-Sha'abi broke these taboos last night by deploying troops on the western side of Mosul, with the intention of encircling the city from the west and prevent Daesh fighters from fleeing to Syria. This shrewd move crashed Turkey’s party, after days in which it said it was willing to join the fight.

So far, Ankara has not played an active role in the offensive despite its announcements. The Turkish army has yet to go head-on against Daesh fighters. Until now, the only victims of Turkeys’ war against terrorism have been Turkish Kurds and Syrians.

In fact, Daesh militants have been able to exploit routes prepared by the Turks to escape. The case of Jarablus and northern Iraq are evidence of that, so much so that many analysts describe Jarabulus’s fall as a handover by Daesh to Turkey rather than a flight or defeat.

Al-Hashd Al-Sha’abi’s tactical move yesterday is meant to choke off any Daesh escape route towards Syria. This was a major issue last week, giving credence to suppositions and theories about the existence of a secret deal meant to shift Daesh from Iraq to Syria, where they would be used against the Assad government.

According to Iraqi sources, Al-Hashd Al-Sha’abi troops joined al Kataeb Al Babibliyoun (Babylon Brigade), a special unit of Third Brigade of the Iraqi Army. The common goal is to occupy the area, then move up to Tall Afar, thus completing Mosul’s encirclement from the west to the border with Syria.

Al-Hashd Al-Sha’abi is using tanks and heavy weapons, deployed and operating like the regular army. The goal is to liberate 30 villages west of Mosul in the coming days.

On Al-Hashd Al-Sha’abi’s official website, Abu Taleb Al Saeidi, one of the group’s leaders, said that the mission of moving westward into the Tall Afar district is designed to "capture and kill" Abu Bakr El Baghdadi, the Islamic State’s caliph who is thought to be in hiding in the area, along with some of his most trusted followers who have decided "to escape and move to Raqqa, Syria".

United States-based, Arabic satellite TV broadcaster Al Hurra reported al Baghdadi’s fight from Mosul yesterday with 50 loyalists to a "not well defined place in the vicinity of the border with Syria".

Al-Saeidi added that the purpose of moving troops west of Mosul is meant to "cut off the road for Daesh supplies in Mosul, as well as the flight of its fighters."

The final battle to free Mosul should thus see the participation of Al-Hashd Al-Sha’abi. The attack, when it comes, will be from three sides: "The first from Al Kayara towards Ain Al Jahsh, the second from Al Muhalabiya and the third attack from the Highway from Baghdad, the main road into the city. "

Yesterday, Iraqi media reported that Al-Hashd Al-Sha’abi troops spirited to safety dozens of families that had fled Hemmam el Alil, taking them to Al Sherkat. Iraqi Foreign Minister Al-Jaafari welcomed the news saying that Al-Hashd Al-Sha’abi "offered an excellent example of national sacrifice in its war against Daesh".

Meanwhile, there is some disturbing news from Kirkuk, where Daesh launched a counteroffensive last week, in a video carried in both regular and social media, whose reliability AsiaNews could not confirm despite seeing its content.

In it, a Daesh militiaman captured in the heat of the battle says that he and his group were airlifted by Turkey and then helped to reach in Mosul, then Kirkuk, by Kurdish leader Masud Al Barazani (President of the Autonomous Region of Iraqi Kurdistan).

The video, which appeared on the website of Al Alam, an Iranian-based Arabic language broadcaster before it was removed after four hours, has fuelled rumours about a possible deal between Kurdish President Barzani and Turkey on "dividing the areas east and west of Mosul. "

This echoes what the secretary general of Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, the League of the Righteous People, said. The latter is a Shia paramilitary group that carried out more than 6,000 attacks against American forces in Iraq before they pulled out.

In an interview with the Unews, Sheikh Qais Al Khazali claimed that the Americans have “a plan to partition Iraq" that also seeks to "prevent Al-Hashd Al-Sha’abi’s entry into Mosul" thanks to the collaboration of Turkey and Daesh.

For the sheikh, the Turks and the Kurds struck a deal, and what is happening in Mosul is the result of this deal "to divide the spoils of Nineveh". Under the agreement, the east side of Mosul, i.e. the Nineveh Plains, goes to Barzani and the other, the right side, especially Tall Afar and Sinjar, goes to Turkey.

This would explain Al Hashd el Sahaabi’s move towards Tall Afar to prevent the Turks from fulfilling their dream of "neo-Ottoman expansionism”. (PB)