Sunni military base readies for Mosul offensive

 

A military base of Gudadi near the township of Bashiqa in Nineveh Plains has been a frequent target for ISIL middle-range missiles that have so far managed to kill at least four Sunni fighters and wounded 28 others, according to military officials at the base.

The ISIL gunmen have bombed this base six times in the past four months and also tried to overrun the base twice so far this year,” General Muhammad Yahiya, who is in charge of the Gudadi military base, told Rudaw.

The base is only five kilometers away from the Kurdish Peshmerga frontline positions, which have helped the Sunni fighters thwart ISIL offensives in the past, the general said.“The Peshmerga are stationed relatively close to our base and have helped us counter two ISIL ground attacks over the past months,” Yahiya said.

With over 1,500 Sunni volunteers, including dozens of Kurdish fighters, it is planned that the Gudadi military base in Bashik is to play a crucial role in pushing back ISIL militants from Mosul.The base is only 30 kilometers northeast of Mosul city and was established by the former Mosul governor Aseel Nujaifi.

In December 2015, the Gudadi base made international headlines after it was reported that Turkey had deployed a military force to train Sunni volunteers.Most of the Turkish troops, some 900 heavily armed soldiers, withdrew from Bashiqa in the coming weeks, but dozens of Turkish trainers remained in the base to complete the military preparation of Sunni recruits.“We received both heavy and light weapons recently which were provided to us by Mr.

Aseel Nujaifi,” Yahiya said.“But we have no knowledge about which country has sold the military equipment to us,” he added.Turkish officials announced Sunday that one of their trainers was killed in the Gudadi base and another injured following an ISIL attack.Yahiya said he had heard about ISIL infiltrators inside his base but could not verify reports that the Iraqi security forces had already detained several of his troops, accused of providing the ISIL with inside information.

The Kurdish fighters, however, claimed that dozens of fellow Sunni fighters had been arrested and charged with espionage.“Around 20 Arab Sunni fighters have so far been taken away from here by security officers, suspected of given detailed information to ISIL,” the Kurdish fighters who have volunteered to serve with the Sunni militia told Rudaw.But Yahiya believed the recurrent ISIS attacks began only after Turkish troops arrived in Bashiqa.“Before that,” he insisted, “ISIL didn’t even bother to fire at our base.”Ankara has said their troops entered the disputed Nineveh Plains, which is home to mixed ethnic and religious communities, after consultations with the Iraqi authorities in Baghdad.

The 1,500-strong Sunni fighters in Bashiqa are only a fraction of the wider Turkey-backed Sunni militia known as Hashd al-Watani, which is the military equivalent of the more powerful Iran-backed Shiite militia, called Hashd al- Shaabi.Hashd al-Watani was initially established to recruit Sunni fighters who were willing to take part in a possible assault on ISIL in the Sunni heartland of Mosul.Until recently, the Sunni group was funded by Iraq’s predominantly Shiite government in a bid to avert sectarian tensions, in a region with mostly underprivileged Sunni populations who have often had hostile attitudes towards government policies.Baghdad, however, removed Nujaifi, Mosul’s exiled governor and a Sunni, accusing him of mismanaging the Sunni militia and turning it into his own army.The Iraqi government also froze payments to the group in August 2015.

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