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The New Arab

Iraqi militia recaptures villages from IS near Syrian border

Hashd al-Shaabi units have been accused of committing human rights violations [AFP]

Date of publication: 29 May, 2017

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Iraqi Shia militia forces recaptured territory from the Islamic State group west of Mosul on Sunday, making an advance towards the Syrian border.

Iraqi Shia militia forces recaptured territory from the Islamic State group west of Mosul on Sunday, making an advance towards the Syrian border.

The Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation Forces) displaced Islamic State fighters from several villages in the Sinjar region, Reuters reported, with the recaptured territory handed back to the Yazidi community.

One of the villages retaken by the Iraqi militia is Kojo, where IS militants kidnapped hundreds of Yazidi women in 2014.

The village is just 35 kilometres from the Syrian border, and Iraq's government is seeking to establish control of the area in coordination with Syrian regime forces.

At present, the northwest border area linking Iraq and Syria is under the control of Islamic State and Kurdish forces.

The Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation Forces) militia group is playing an active role in the US-backed Iraqi campaign to defeat the Islamic State in Mosul and the Nineveh region.

The seven-month operation has seen 90 percent of the city  recaptured by Iraqi forces, with IS militants holed up in the Old City and on the brink defeat, according to Iraqi military commanders.

On Saturday, Iraqi forces launched an offensive to retake parts of Mosul's Old City where IS fighters are active.

While the Hashd al-Shaabi units have been pivotal in the Mosul operation, they have been linked to a number of massacres and human rights abuses during Baghdad's efforts to liberate mostly Sunni northern Iraq from IS.

This week, a conversation between Iraqi army officers overheard by a New Arab correspondent revealed that both Iraqi forces and Hashd al-Shaabi militias were implicated in a series of assaults, rape, torture, looting, and blackmail of civilians in Mosul.

Some militias within the umbrella Shia organisation also continue to face accusations that they are funded, motivated, and trained by Iran, and the Tehran-backed, Lebanese-Shia paramilitary group Hizballah.

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