Kurds seize IS-held town near Mo­sul

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Iraqi Kur­dish forces have seized the town of Bashiqa near Mo­sul from the Is­lamic State group, an of­fi­cial said yes­ter­day, as USbacked mili­tia forces ad­vanced on the ji­hadists’ Syr­ian strong­hold Raqa. Cap­tur­ing Bashiqa would be one of the fi­nal steps in se­cur­ing the east­ern ap­proaches to Mo­sul, three weeks into an of­fen­sive by Iraqi forces to re­take the coun­try’s sec­ond city. The town was un­der the “com­plete con­trol” of Kur­dish pesh­merga forces, Jab­bar Yawar, the sec­re­tary gen­eral of the Kur­dish re­gional min­istry re­spon­si­ble for the fighters said.

“Our forces are clear­ing mines and sweep­ing the city,” Yawar said. An AFP correspondent on the out­skirts of Bashiqa said clashes were on­go­ing, with three air strikes hit­ting the town and gun­fire and an ex­plo­sion heard from in­side. Pesh­merga of­fi­cials said there were still some sui­cide bombers and snipers in­side. “We are con­duct­ing clear­ing op­er­a­tions from house to house. The Daesh fighters are trav­el­ling in­side tun­nels,” said Colonel Dil­shad Mawlud, a pesh­merga me­dia of­fi­cial, us­ing an Ara­bic acro­nym for IS. “About five per­cent of the town is still un­der Daesh con­trol,” pesh­merga Ma­jor Gen­eral Sayyed Ha­j­jar said.

Iraqi forces have been tight­en­ing the noose around Mo­sul since launch­ing the of­fen­sive on October 17, with elite troops last week breach­ing city lim­its. Up­ping pres­sure on the ji­hadists, the Kur­dishArab Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces (SDF) al­liance on Satur­day launched its own of­fen­sive on IS’s other main bas­tion, the Syr­ian city of Raqa. Raqa and Mo­sul are the last ma­jor cities in Syria and Iraq un­der the ji­hadists’ con­trol and their cap­ture would deal a knock­out blow to the self-styled “caliphate” IS de­clared in mid-2014. ‘De­ter­mined to suc­ceed’ The US-led coali­tion that launched op­er­a­tions against IS two years ago is pro­vid­ing cru­cial back­ing to both of­fen­sives, with air strikes and spe­cial forces ad­vis­ers on the ground. SDF forces have been push­ing south from ar­eas near the Turk­ish border to­wards Raqa and al­liance spokes­woman Ji­han Sheikh Ahmed said yes­ter­day they had moved to within 36 kilo­me­ters of the city. “Two more vil­lages have been taken since yes­ter­day,” she told AFP, adding that SDF forces had so far ad­vanced 14 kilo­me­ters closer to Raqa from Ain Issa, the main stag­ing point for the op­er­a­tion. “The fight­ing con­tin­ues; morale is good and our fighters are de­ter­mined that this of­fen­sive will suc­ceed,” she said. Like in the bat­tle for Mo­sul, the goal of the Raqa of­fen­sive is to sur­round and iso­late the ji­hadists in­side the city, be­fore even­tu­ally mount­ing a street-to-street as­sault. In both cases of­fi­cials are warn­ing of long and bloody bat­tles ahead, as ji­hadist forces are ex­pected to put up a fierce fight and use trapped civil­ians as hu­man shields. — AFP

An Iraqi man who fled the fight­ing uses a pair of scis­sors to trim his beard af­ter reach­ing the Iraqi army 9th ar­mored di­vi­sion base ad­ja­cent to the Al-In­tis­sar neigh­bor­hood of Mo­sul. — AFP

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