An Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMU) member rides on the back of a pickup truck past a Shi’ite mural in Baghdad, Iraq.
(photo credit: REUTERS/MARIUS BOSCH)
Days after ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi released a new video, the Iraqi paramilitary groups known as Hashd al-Shaabi – the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), a 100,000-strong group of mostly Shi’ite militias – launched an operation to crush Islamic State in rural areas near the Syrian border, according to Iran’s Tasnim News.
An operations command in Iraq’s western Anbar province released a statement saying that four units would participate, including armored vehicles as well as engineering and communications forces. Border guards would also assist. Al-Manar media, which is linked to Hezbollah, said the operation would clear 230 km. of border. This area was taken from ISIS in 2017 by the PMU but it remained restive – and ISIS members were able to hide out in these desert areas.
Recent reports showed ISIS activity stretching across some areas of Iraq from the Hamreen Mountains and near Makhmur all the way to Syria. In late March, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces defeated ISIS in Baghouz on the Euphrates in Syria. But ISIS sleeper cells are still active in the war-torn country.
Iraq recently launched another major operation in the Hamreen Mountains. But ISIS has struck where it can. It murdered a Kurdish member of the local security forces earlier this week.
“The PMU will enter from the main axis and our units will be deployed along the border,” Tasnim news reported a local commander saying. In other parts of Iraq, the security forces carried out an air assault near Ba’aj, and the US-led coalition has continued making air strikes this week against ISIS in Iraq.
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