The liberation of Ayadiyah and the Tal Afar district was confirmed by Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi. He released a statement declaring not only that area, but all of Ninewa now free of the Islamic State. This was a dramatic turn of events. A few days ago, the Iraqis had to call in reinforcements as they were facing tough resistance from IS. Then everything collapsed and Ayadiyah was taken in a quick advance lasting just a day.
What happened to the IS fighters in Tal Afar has now become part of a conspiracy theory promoted by Vice President Nouri al-Maliki and his wing of the State of Law list. First, a State of Law parliamentarian claimed that the insurgents fled from Tal Afar to Irbil where they surrendered, and that proved they had a deal with President Massoud Barzani. The MP demanded the Kurds turn over all the militants that were arrested. Next, Maliki stated that the Islamic State had an agreement with the Abadi government and the U.S. to flee Tal Afar, and that was why they gave up to the Kurds. Abadi, Barzani and Washington are all favorite targets of propaganda put out by Maliki and his allies. He has been talking about conspiracies against him and Iraq since Mosul fell in 2014 and he was forced out of office.
Three female suicide bombers attempted to attack the Kurds in the town of Salah al-Maleh north of Ayadiyah. Three women came into the town amongst a group of displaced. One woman gave up, but the other two tried to detonate their devices and were killed by the Peshmerga. Yesterday, there was a successful suicide bombing against the Peshmerga lines.
The Iraqi forces now look to be heading towards the Hawija district in southern Kirkuk. The Iraqi Air Force dropped leaflets over the area telling people that they would be freed soon. The Joint Operations Command were also putting together a Hawija We Are Coming command to lead the offensive. After Mosul was taken, some units were already transferred from Ninewa to the Hawija area. Like Mosul there is some debate over which forces will take part. There are some Kurds and tribal leaders that do not want Shiite Hashd units to take part. They will be included anyway as they have played a role in all the previous campaigns. There will be some clearing operations and mopping up in Tal Afar, and then forces will have to be moved to Hawija, which will take a few weeks until Hawija is actually assaulted.
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