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Hashd forces retake Iraq-Syria border checkpoint from ISIS

The mainly-Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi force has announced that it liberated a checkpoint on the Iraq-Syria border in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The Hashd were able to liberate Tal Safwak checkpoint in a predawn attack, the spokesperson for the force Ahmad al-Assadi said in a statement.

A village with the same name has also been liberated, he said.

Syrian Kurds from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) control the other side of the border.

This comes as the deputy head of the Hashd Mahdi al-Mihandis had said that they expected to liberate all ISIS-held areas west of Nineveh–of which Mosul is the capital city–by Wednesday apart from the Turkmen town of Tal Afar.

Muhandis added that they plan to control the Iraq-Syria border.

He said part of the border from the Iraqi side is controlled by what he called “our Syrian Kurdish brothers.”

The force announced that by Tuesday they had liberated 3,480 square kilometers since they launched their fresh offensive to drive out ISIS from the areas to the west of Nineveh last month, controlling a stretch of 25 km of the border area that begins from Shingal to west of Baaj, and then Iraqi border from the side of the western province of Anbar.

They say they have liberated over 100 villages ever since, including some Yezidi ones that also includes Kocho, the symbol of ISIS genocide against the Yezidi community.

Iraq has no plans to cross the border into Syria, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told reporters on Tuesday as he said the situation is “complicated” in Syria where regional and international countries are already too much involved in the six-year Syrian civil war.

Muhandis said that following the liberation of Baaj on Sunday, south of the Yezidi town of Shingal, only a few small areas remained under the control of the extremist group except for Tal Afar.

Tal Afar, 60 kilometers west of Mosul, has been under ISIS control since mid-2014.

Muhandis said that they are waiting for orders from PM Abadi, who is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, including the now-official Hashd forces, to enter the town.

The Hashd, which says it has an armed force of over 100, 000 fighters, began its offensive southwest and west of Mosul on October 29, almost two weeks after the start of the Mosul operation by the Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

Abadi had said last November that the Iraqi army, supported by the locals from the town, would be tasked with Tal Afar offensive following Turkey’s objections to any Hashd advance on to the town.

At least 500 families fleeing the ISIS-held of Tal Afar in western Nineveh reached the sanctuary of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces on Tuesday.

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