Mo­sul bat­tle rages as re­sis­tance fal­ters

IS bomb­ings around coun­try leave 20 dead

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

MO­SUL: Iraq’s spe­cial forces worked Sun­day to clear neigh­bor­hoods on the east­ern edge of Is­lamic State-held Mo­sul as bomb­ings launched by the ex­trem­ist group else­where in the coun­try killed at least 20 peo­ple. The Mo­sul of­fen­sive has slowed in re­cent days as Iraqi forces have pushed into more densely pop­u­lated ar­eas, where they can­not rely as much on airstrikes and shelling be­cause of the risk posed to civil­ians, who have been told to stay in their homes. “There are a lot of civil­ians and we are try­ing to pro­tect them,” said Lt Col Muhanad Al-Tim­imi. “This is one of the hard­est bat­tles that we’ve faced till now.”

Some civil­ians are flee­ing the com­bat zone, while IS mil­i­tants are hold­ing oth­ers back for use as hu­man shields, mak­ing it harder for Iraqi com­man­ders on the ground to get ap­proval for re­quested U.S.-led coali­tion air strikes. Iraq’s Spe­cial Forces are some of the coun­try’s best troops, but they still largely rely on air sup­port to clear ter­rain. Iraqi forces first en­tered the east­ern edge of the city on Tues­day. On Fri­day, forces be­gan push­ing into Mo­sul proper, but so far have ad­vanced just over a kilo­me­ter (mile) into the city.

On the south­ern front, Iraqi forces are still some 12 miles from the city cen­ter. The fight­ing is cen­tered on the town of Ha­mam Al-Alil, where As­so­ci­ated Press jour­nal­ists could hear gun­fire and saw at­tack he­li­copters fir­ing on IS po­si­tions. Kur­dish pesh­merga fight­ers launched mor­tar rounds and fired heavy ar­tillery at the IS-held town of Bashiqa, about 8 miles north­east of Mo­sul. The town, which is be­lieved to be largely empty ex­cept for IS mil­i­tants, has been en­cir­cled by Kur­dish forces.

The ex­trem­ists cap­tured Mo­sul and sur­round­ing ar­eas in 2014, and have had plenty of time to dig trenches, block off roads and mine ap­proaches to the city. “Daesh dug trenches that they filled with water and they have a lot of sui­cide at­tack­ers and car bombs,” said Al-Tim­imi, us­ing the Ara­bic acro­nym for the IS group. The ex­trem­ists mean­while struck far from the front lines with a se­ries of bomb­ings. The dead­li­est at­tack took place in the city of Sa­marra, 60 miles north of Bagh­dad, which is home to a ma­jor Shi­ite shrine. Pro­vin­cial spokesman Ali Al-Ham­dani said the at­tacker set off a bomb-packed am­bu­lance in a park­ing lot near Shi­ite pil­grims be­fore det­o­nat­ing his ex­plo­sives vest. The at­tack killed 11 peo­ple, in­clud­ing at least four Ira­ni­ans, and wounded up to 100 other peo­ple.

Sui­cide at­tacks

An­other sui­cide at­tacker rammed an ex­plo­sives-laden car into a busy check­point out­side the city of Tikrit, killing at least nine peo­ple. Al-Ham­dani said five fe­male stu­dents, a woman and three po­lice­men were killed in the at­tack, while 25 oth­ers were wounded. IS had also cap­tured Tikrit dur­ing its light­ning blitz across Iraq in the sum­mer of 2014. Iraqi forces drove the mil­i­tants from the city, around 80 miles north of Bagh­dad, in April 2015.

Iran’s For­eign Min­istry spokesman, Bahram Ghasemi, con­demned the two at­tacks, which he said had killed 21 peo­ple, in­clud­ing 10 Ira­nian pil­grims, the semi-of­fi­cial Mehr news agency re­ported. It was not im­me­di­ately pos­si­ble to rec­on­cile the con­flict­ing tolls, which are com­mon in the chaotic after­math of at­tacks. In an on­line state­ment, IS claimed all three bomb­ings and said the am­bu­lance bomb was set off by a sec­ond sui­cide at­tacker. The AP could not ver­ify the au­then­tic­ity of the state­ment, which was posted on a mil­i­tant web­site com­monly used by the ex­trem­ists.

In the cap­i­tal, Bagh­dad, a se­ries of smaller bomb­ings killed at least 10 peo­ple and wounded 21 oth­ers, ac­cord­ing to po­lice and med­i­cal of­fi­cials, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rized to brief re­porters. No one im­me­di­ately claimed the at­tacks, but they bore the hall­marks of IS.

— AFP

MO­SUL: Iraqi chil­dren, one flash­ing the sign of vic­tory, greet Iraqi army’s sol­diers from the 9th ar­mored di­vi­sion in the area of Ali Rash, ad­ja­cent to the east­ern Al-In­tis­sar neigh­bor­hood of Mo­sul dur­ing a mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion to re­take the main hub city from the Is­lamic State (IS) group ji­hadists.

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