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Two Iraq Shia militia leaders killed west of Mosul in a week

A military commander in the Iraqi Shia paramilitary organisation, the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), has been killed in clashes with Daesh in the area of Tal Afar, west of Mosul. The killing is the second such slaying of a PMF military commander in the past week alone.

The Iran-backed PMF, a formal part of the Iraqi military since last year, has been formally deployed west of Mosul since the operation to recapture Iraq's second city from Daesh extremists began on 17 October 2016. During that time, the PMF has fought to capture the Turkmen-majority city of Tal Afar, about 60 kilometres west of Mosul.

Speaking to the Turkish state-owned Anadolu, PMF commander Musa Hassan Jawlaq confirmed yesterday's fatality, and said that the dead Shia jihadist leader was Ali Akbar Bahnam who died after engaging Daesh fighters on the outskirts of Tal Afar.

Read: Iraq government, Shia militias, Daesh all committed war crimes in 2016 – Amnesty

Bahnam was adjutant to the commander of the 53rd "Hassan" Brigade, a formation of the PMF, and therefore represents quite a senior fatality in the ranks of the Shia militant group.

Jawlaq added that the PMF was continuing to press on Daesh positions holding westbound roads leading out of Mosul, and was conducting operations to recapture villages and towns surrounding Tal Afar under Daesh control.

Last week, the commander of the Badr Organisation's 10th Brigade, one of the most powerful Iran-sponsored Shia jihadist organisations that fight under the umbrella of the PMF paramilitary group, was also killed near Tal Afar. Abu Taha Al-Saeedi, the high-ranking Badr militant, was killed in clashes with Daesh.

Daesh commander 'captured'

 Meanwhile, Colonel Midhfir Hamdan of the 9th Armoured Division, also involved in the Mosul operation, claimed to have captured a senior Daesh field commander in the southwest of the city. According to Hamdan, Bakr Abdulqadir Al-Jalout, also known by his Daesh nom de guerre "Abu Maria the Avenger", was captured after a two-hour standoff in the southwestern Jawsaq neighbourhood.

Al-Jalout had taken refuge in a building in the Jawsaq area, and tried to stave off Iraqi forces for over two hours before he ran out of ammunition and was forced to surrender.

Though no footage has been released of the Daesh commander, Colonel Hamdan said that "The arrest of the Daesh leader will help us uncover Daesh's secrets, plans and the methods they use to fight the Iraqi armed forces," adding that it would aid in "foiling these plans, countering their methods and destroying them."

After a lull in the fighting for Mosul between the end of January and much of February, the Iraqi military launched its offensive to retake the western half of the city on 19 February, capturing Mosul's airport and making inroads into a few neighbourhoods on the southwestern reaches of the city, including Jawsaq.

Read: HRW: Iran-backed Shia militias destroying Sunni homes in Iraq

Daesh has suffered enormous losses in the past two years, with a senior British general recently stating that the extremist group will be suffering from its inability to replace its lost manpower.

"We are killing Daesh at a rate that they simply can't sustain," said Major General Rupert Jones, deputy commander of for the international US-led Combined Joint Task Force coalition, adding that 45,000 Daesh militants had been killed by Coalition airstrikes since the campaign started and up to August last year.

"The enemy [Daesh] cannot sustain the attrition they are suffering and therefore they lose terrain, they lose battles," the British general said.

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