Iraq strikes ISIL in Syria; forces en­ter western Mo­sul

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - QAS­SIM AB­DUL-ZAHRA AND AN­DREA ROSA

Iraq’s air force struck Is­lamic State tar­gets in­side Syria for the first time on Fri­day as Iraqi troops on the ground pushed into western Mo­sul, the last ma­jor ur­ban strong­hold held by the Sunni mil­i­tant group in Iraq.

Iraq’s Prime Min­is­ter Haider al-Abadi an­nounced the airstrikes in a state­ment, say­ing the air force hit the bor­der towns of Bouka­mal and Hus­seibah, strikes that came in re­sponse to re­cent bombings in Baghdad claimed by ISIL and linked to the mil­i­tants’ op­er­a­tions in Syria.

Mean­while, Iraqi forces pushed into the first neigh­bour­hood of western Mo­sul and took full con­trol of Mo­sul’s in­ter­na­tional air­port and a sprawl­ing mil­i­tary base on the south­west­ern edge of the city, ac­cord­ing to Iraqi of­fi­cials.

Iraqi fed­eral po­lice fired vol­leys of mor­tars into Mo­sul from the edge of the air­port, which ap­peared al­most com­pletely de­stroyed: run­ways had been dug up, con­trol tow­ers flat­tened and con­crete bar­ri­ers over­turned.

The ter­ri­to­rial gains marked the first key moves in the bat­tle, now in its sixth day, to rout ISIL mil­i­tants from the western half of Mo­sul, Iraq’s sec­ond-largest city.

The push into the Ma­mun neigh­bour­hood was fol­lowed by in­tense clashes with ISIL mil­i­tants, ac­cord­ing to an Iraqi spe­cial forces of­fi­cer on the ground, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity in line with reg­u­la­tions.

Sim­i­larly in­tense coun­ter­at­tacks fol­lowed pushes on the other fronts. Fed­eral po­lice Maj. Gen. Haider alMa­turi said his forces pushed through con­crete road­blocks and earthen berms set up by the Is­lamic State group to im­pede their progress, and suc­ceeded in cap­tur­ing around 30 per cent of the Avi­a­tion Dis­trict, the first dis­trict en­ter­ing Mo­sul’s western perime­ter from the south.

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