Iraqi forces have for months been preparing to launch a military operation to expel the ISIS terrorist group from the city of Talaafar, west of Mosul.
Some 100,000 civilians are trapped in the city and the Niniveh province council stressed the need to open safe passageways for them to facilitate their exit from the city before the imminent operation gets underway. Over the past few days, hundreds of Talaafar residents had fled towards security forces positions on the city’s outskirts.
The Iraqi forces, comprised of the national army, federal police and anti-terrorism agency, have continued their preparations to liberate Talaafar from ISIS. Iraqi security leaders said that some 40,000 security forces members, backed by the national air force and International Coalition, will take part in the offensive.
Member of the Niniveh council Binyan al-Jarba told Asharq Al-Awsat that the ISIS militants’ morale is very low after the losses their members and leaders incurred in battles they waged in the past three years against peshmerga and Iraqi forces.
He did express his fears however over the civilians who are still besieged in Talaafar.
“Some 100,000 people are trapped by the ISIS militants, who are using them as human shields to hinder the advance of the security forces,” he explained.
He urged the military commanders to take into consideration the civilians when they launch their attack, hoping that their lives will be a priority.
Jarba proposed that the battles be waged away from residential areas, saying that ISIS militants should be lured into open areas to avoid civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure.
For around eight months, Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) militias had been deploying around Talaafar after advancing on the city in wake of the operation to liberate Mosul from ISIS.
The PMF had declared that it had surrounded Talaafar, but Iraqi security forces said that the terrorist group was able to break the siege on more than one occasion during which it evacuated militants and their families from the city and traversed the desert towards Syria.
Iraqi security forces estimate that there are some 2,000 ISIS terrorists currently besieged in Talaafar, the Turkmen city whose population is divided equally between Sunnis and Shi’ites. Since the collapse of the Baath party rule in Iraq in 2003, the city acted as a main hub for extremist groups and ISIS was able to seize control of it in June 2014.