World Bulletin / News Desk
"Joint Iraqi forces have completed preparations to liberate Al-Mahlabiyya, located 35 kilometers west of Mosul, with a view to expelling ISIL militants from the area," the Hashd al-Shaabi’s Turkmen leader, Musa Hasan Julaq, told Anadolu Agency.
Established three years ago with the express purpose of fighting ISIL, the Hashd al-Shaabi is an umbrella of pro-government fighting groups.
Last December, Iraq passed legislation calling for the group’s formal incorporation into the Iraqi armed forces.
"Other forces that will take part in the campaign include the Iraqi army’s 72nd Brigade, the Ferqatu al-Abbas [fighting group] and the Jihad Brigades, along with the Iraqi air force," Julaq said.
"We have intelligence that ISIL has deployed a battalion of Chechen and Russian fighters in [Al-Mahlabiyya’s] Al-Zalimeen and Al-Askari neighborhoods with a view to repulsing the impending attack," he added, going on to assert that "dozens" of ISIL extremists had been killed in preemptive airstrikes by Iraqi warplanes.
At least 15,000 people, mostly Turkmen, reside in the town of Al-Mahlabiyya, situated between the cities of Mosul and Tal Afar.
Al-Mahlabiyya’s capture would isolate ISIL fighters who remain on the western side of Mosul from those deployed in Tal Afar, located some 60 kilometers west of Mosul.