Mobilization forces recapture 9 villages clearing borders with Syria

Iraqi paramilitary forces fighting the Islamic State have recaptured nine more villages, proceeding with a campaign to impose control over the Iraqi borders with Syria.

Badr Organization, a part of the mainly-Shia Popular Mobilization Units, said Monday it had taken over nine villages northwest of Baaj, with dozens of militants fleeing to Syrian border cities.

“Forces are proceeding towards the liberation of what is left of Iraqi-Syrian borders towards al-Waleed border corssing,” the statement said, pointing to a crossing in Anbar province, south of Nineveh, which is also close to the borders with Jordan.

Operations on Monday left more than 45 Is members dead, including suicide bombers boarding booby-trapped cars, Badr Organization added.

On Sunday, PMU media said mobilization forces recaptured the entire Baaj region and proceeded to take over surrounding villages near the Syrian borders. Operations targeting border regions near Syria launched in May 12th.

The campaign has been running simultaneously with government troops battles with IS in Mosul, the group’s largest stronghold in Iraq where the group is nearing eventual defeat.

On Sunday, Abu Mahdi Al-Mohandes, deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization Units, said “mobilization forces will go after terrorism outside Iraq if it threatens Iraq’s soil and national security”. His remarks revive a controversy around whether the Shia-led, Iran-trained force could pass the Syrian borders to give leverage to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces against IS and other and rebel groups. A mobilization forces spokesperson said last week that the troops would not take the step unless with an Iraqi parliament green light. U.S.-backed Kurdish Syrian forces fighting the Islamic State had warned the organization against crossing the borders.