Iraq: Hundreds flee IS-held village as militias launch assault
Hundreds of Iraqi civilians have fled from a village west of Mosul after Shia militiamen moved in to push out the Islamic State group [IS].
The civilians in Tal Abta fled early on Wednesday after Popular Mobilisation Units [PMU] – known in Arabic as Hashd al-Shaabi – launched an assault on the village south of the flashpoint town of Tal Afar.
"Hundreds of civilians have been forced to flee their homes to neighbouring villages because of the intense shelling by the PMU," a source in the Joint Special Operations Command told The New Arab.
"They fled because of fears of being arrested by the PMU," the source added.
The paramilitary umbrella dominated by Shia militias loyal to Tehran have been accused of carrying out sectarian atrocities against the Sunni Arab community in areas recaptured from IS.
The PMU said on Tuesday that it had recaptured the southern district of Tal Abta, which was on the extremist group's supply line to Syria.
Last month, Iraq's parliament voted to grant full legal status to the PMU, effectively making the group's fighters the country's reservists.
Around 74,000 people have fled their homes in the region since the start on October 17 of a huge offensive against Mosul, only about 30,000 of them from inside the city itself.
The number of displaced is significantly lower than what the United Nations and other aid organisations had forecast before the operation began.
The International Rescue Committee has said this was because at least in part to the intensity of the fighting making it too dangerous for civilians to flee and reach the safety of the camps being set up around Mosul.
On Wednesday, the Iraqi army met fierce resistance from the IS in Mosul after taking a hospital deep inside the eastern half of the city.
The army's 9th Armoured Division said it had retaken al-Salam hospital, which lies near the Tigris River that separates the two halves of the city.
The push launched on Tuesday is the farthest the army has penetrated into east Mosul since the start of a broad offensive launched.