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Iraqi paramilitary units free airbase in west of Mosul

Xinhua | Updated: 2016-11-17 11:16

MOSUL - Iraqi paramilitary units, known as Hashd Shaabi, announced on Wednesday the liberation of a strategic airbase near the town of Tal Afar in west of the Islamic State (IS)-held city of Mosul in northern Iraq, the official television reported.

"The Hashd Shaabi announce the liberation of Tal Afar airbase after fierce clashes with IS militants," the state-run Iraqiya channel quoted the Hashd Shaabi spokesman Ahmed al-Asadi as saying.

The recapture of the airbase, just west of Tal Afar, would enable the paramilitary units to use it as a staging ground to free the IS-held town of Tal Afar, some 70 km west of Mosul, Asadi said.

The recapture of the airbase would also cut off the supply routes between Mosul and Tal Afar, Asadi said, adding that the presence of the Hashd Shaabi in west of Mosul would secure the border areas between Iraq and neighboring Syria.

The Hashd Shaabi units took control of the airbase late in the afternoon after sporadic clashes during the day to defeat the IS militants from several villages in south and west of the airbase perimeter, he said.

US-led coalition forces heavily attacked the airbase in March during Iraq's invasion March 2003, and the US troops used it later for the ground forces. The IS terrorist group used the airbase later as a training camp for its extremist militants.

The airbase and the nearby town of Tal Afar, which used to have majority of both Sunni and Shiite Turkoman villagers, as well as other minorities of Kurds and Arabs, fell to IS in June 2014.

The advance of the pre-dominantly Shiite paramilitary units in the ethnically mixed region where Sunni Muslims form a majority, could spark sectarian tension with Sunni Arabs and neighboring Sunni state of Turkey.


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