Europe

The Latest: Erdogan warns Shiite militias on Tel Afar

The Latest on the conflict in the Iraq and the battle to retake the IS-held city of Mosul (all times local):

1:45 p.m.

Turkey's president is warning that the country could respond if an Iraqi Shiite militia "terrorizes" the Iraqi-Turkmen town of Tel Afar, near Mosul.

The state-run Anadolu agency reported that Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters Saturday that his government will be closely monitoring the behavior of the Hashd al-Shaabi militia and will seek to safeguard the rights of ethnic Turkmens in Iraq.

"Tel Afar is an entirely Turkmen town . if Hashd al-Shaabi starts terrorizing it, then our response will certainly be different," Erdogan said.

The use of government-backed Shiite militias is a sensitive issue in the ongoing battle to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State group. Militia commanders have said that their forces will not enter Mosul but will instead focus on surrounding towns like Tel Afar.

___

1:30 p.m.

Spokesmen for Iraq's state-sanctioned Shiite militias say that some 5,000 fighters have joined their push to encircle the county's second largest city of Mosul and cut off Islamic State fighters there.

Karim al-Nuri of the umbrella group for the militias, known as the Popular Mobilization Units, and Jaafar al-Husseini, a spokesman for unit member the Hezbollah Brigades, said Sunday that a total of some 15,000 Shiite fighters were participating in the battle.

The Iraqi military confirmed the figures, which, including army units, militarized police, and special forces bring the total number of anti-IS fighters in the offensive to over 40,000.

The U.S. military estimates IS has 3,000 to 5,000 fighters inside Mosul and another 1,500-2,500 in the city's outer defensive belt. The total number includes around 1,000 foreign fighters.