Forces en­ter Mo­sul city, main ur­ban fight ahead

Jamaica Gleaner - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS -

GOGJALI, Iraq (AP): IRAQ’S SPE­CIAL forces en­tered the out­skirts of Mo­sul yet­ser­day, tak­ing the state tele­vi­sion build­ing and ad­vanc­ing de­spite fierce re­sis­tance by Is­lamic State group fight­ers who con­trol the city, an Iraqi gen­eral said.

It was the first time in more than two years that Iraqi troops have set foot in­side the city, Iraq’s sec­ond largest. The ad­vance could be the start of a gru­elling and slow op­er­a­tion for the troops, who will be forced to en­gage in dif­fi­cult, house-to­house fight­ing in ur­ban ar­eas that is ex­pected to take weeks, if not months.

Troops en­tered Gogjali, a neigh­bour­hood in­side Mo­sul’s city lim­its, and later the bor­ders of the more built-up Karama dis­trict, ac­cord­ing to Maj Gen Sami al-Aridi of the Iraqi spe­cial forces. As the sun went down, a sand­storm blew in, re­duc­ing vis­i­bil­ity to only 100 me­tres and bring­ing the day’s com­bat to an end.

“Daesh is fight­ing back and have set up con­crete blast walls to block off the Karama neigh­bour­hood and our troops’ ad­vance,” al-Aridi said, us­ing the Ara­bic acro­nym for the Is­lamic State group. Bombs have been laid along the road into the city, he added.

Later, al-Aridi said the troops had taken the nearby state tele­vi­sion build­ing, the only one in the prov­ince, and that heavy fight­ing broke out when they tried to con­tinue fur­ther in to built-up ar­eas. An of­fi­cial ca­su­alty re­port has yet to be given, but of­fi­cers men­tioned one dead and one wounded.

Mo­sul is the fi­nal IS ur­ban bas­tion in Iraq, the city from which it drove out a larger but de­mor­alised Iraqi army in 2014 and de­clared a ‘caliphate’ that stretched into Syria. Its loss would be a ma­jor defeat for the ji­hadis, but with the clos­est Iraqi troops still some 10 kilo­me­tres from the city cen­tre, much ground re­mains to be cov­ered.

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