A video shared on Twitter shows Islamic State militants fleeing for their lives from the once occupied Tal-Afar airport as the Shiite PMU Al-Hashd al-Shaabi attack. The second video shows the Hashd destroying a suicide bomber driving a car bomb during the airport’s recapture.
Tal-Afar is about 45 miles west of Mosul, the site of a major American coalition undertaking against the Islamic State.
Last month, the American coalition, consisting of the Iraqi Army, the Kurdish Peshmerga, Shia militias, Christian militias, and the Turkish Nineveh Guard, descended upon Mosul to free it from the Islamic State. The official operation began on October 17 when it was announced by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
Al-Hashd al-Shaabi is the Arabic term for the Popular Mobilization Forces, which is mostly made up of Shia.
On Thursday, Iraq’s forces took control of the strategic Tal Afar airport from IS after Iraqi army helicopters and ground forces had pounded militant positions for days, penetrating a strong defence that included multiple suicide car bombs.
However, despite the group’s success in eliminating ISIS, their presence has Sunni civilians in Tal-Afar nervous. Rudaw reports:
Sunni Turkmen and Arabs from Tal Afar are against the state-backed Hashd al-Shaabi liberating their town, as the paramilitary Shiite force continues to make advances toward the ISIS-held town west of Mosul.
The Sunnis of Tal Afar say they want a neutral, non-sectarian force to liberate their town.
Tal-Afar fell to ISIS in June 2014.