On Sunday, Humvees and Gun trucks flying Shi’ite militias banners and blaring religious songs streamed towards north, all heading to Mosul.
The convoys were the clear sign of a new player on the battle field in the US-backed offensive bid to take retake Mosul from the Islamic state. The Hashid Shaabi or the PMF (Popular Mobilization forces) although reports officially to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, but the coalition is mostly made up of Iran trained groups loyal to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei its supreme leader.
Ain Nasir, 30 kilometers south of Mosul, was among the first villages which PMF has retaken since the combat operation was announced on Saturday.
According to a participant fighter who participated to retake the village on Saturday night, there was very little resistance from the Islamic state and there were several villagers taken hostage during their retreat by the fighters to be used a Human shield.
According to Adel Khiali, a 26 year old PMF fighter who is affiliated with the Badr Organization and who was also a former Iraqi soldier, the federal police and the Iraqi army came to help in clearing the area after the PMF. There was also a sense of resentment among some of the fighters that the PMF has always been wrongly represented and there is not appreciation of their sacrifices.
Another fighter Ali Khiali, brother of Adel Khiali and a 40 year old affiliated with the Badr Organization said Its not fair for the people to call them as militias even after they fight for the people to return to their villages.
In July, the UN said that it has a list of around over 600 Muslim men and boys who were reportedly abducted from Falluja, by the Shi’ite militiamen and they were sunnis. And about 50 who were tortured to death or summarily executed. Falluja is a former militant strong hold which lies west of Baghdad. The Shi’ite led government and PMF say there have been a limited number of violations those are being investigated.