Iraqi soldiers and militiamen of the so called Popular Mobilization Units have announced the launch of an offensive aimed at retaking the south of the northern Iraqi Shingal region. On Friday morning, Shiite-led Iraqi troops advanced on the Ezidi village of Tel Benat. Their objective is to reach Baaj, a stronghold of the Islamic State and its supporters, which had been targeted by Iraqi attack helicopters the days before. The operation is part of the Mosul offensive and is supposed to expel the Islamic State from the western areas of Mosul.
The offensive has however been met with criticism from Kurdish Peshmerga officials who fear the rival Shingal Resistance Units YBŞ in western Shingal may be strengthened by the Iraqis’ move if they manage to link their territories with those of the PMU. Several villages, including Tel Banat, have been taken as a result of the offensive.
Baaj is located around 30 kilometres south of Shingal and is close to the Syrian-Iraqi border. In 2014, the town fell to the Islamic State and served as a prison camp for enslaved Ezidi women who were from there moved to other IS-held regions.