ZARQA, Iraq (Reuters) - The leader of Iraq’s largest Iranian-backed Shi’ite militia expressed hope on Monday that the battle of Mosul would not be as protracted and devastating as in the one that allied Shi’ite militias are fighting in the Syrian city of Aleppo.
“We are afraid that Mosul could be another Aleppo, but we hope that will not happen,” Hadi al-Amiri, the leader of the Badr Organisation, told reporters in Zarqa, south of Mosul.
Badr and other Shi’ite paramilitary groups on Saturday joined a U.S.-backed campaign to recapture Mosul, Islamic State’s last major city stronghold in Iraq. Amiri said the militias were not receiving direct U.S. support in the battle.
Islamic State also controls parts of Syria, but not Aleppo, where the eastern districts are held by a different array of forces hostile to President Bashar al-Assad.
Tens of thousands of pro-Iranian Shi’ite militias from different nationalities, including Iraq, are fighting alongside Assad’s forces, trying to dislodge the rebels from the eastern districts, with the support of Russia.
Amiri said the Iraqi Shi’ite paramilitary coalition known as Hashid Shaabi, or Popular Mobilisation, does not exclude the possibility of moving into Syria to fight Islamic State.
“If we have to, we will go to Syria,” he said. “Because we believe if Daesh is not finished in Syria then they will be a real danger to Iraq,” he added, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
The Popular Mobilisation reports officially to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and its move to Syria would formalize its participation in the Syrian civil war.
A spokesman for the Popular Mobilisation, Ahmed al-Asadi, said on Saturday the militias would be ready to go to Syria, after the battle of Mosul.
Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh; editing by Giles Elgood