Iraqi forces push on against IS in Mo­sul

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

A top Iraqi com­man­der said yes­ter­day that troops were con­tin­u­ing to ad­vance to­ward the cen­ter of Mo­sul, push­ing back Islamic State fight­ers, but slowed down by sniper fire and sui­cide bomb­ings as well as con­cern over the safety of civil­ians in a city that is home to some one mil­lion peo­ple.

A few hun­dred civil­ians, mean­while, emerged from rub­ble-strewn front­line neigh­bor­hoods in search of safer ground, in­clud­ing women and chil­dren, some of them car­ry­ing bags or small suit­cases packed with be­long­ings.

Maj. Gen. Sami al-Aridi told The Associated Press that his spe­cial forces were search­ing homes in ar­eas re­taken from IS, look­ing for mil­i­tants and ve­hi­cles rigged to be used in sui­cide bomb­ings. Troops in those ar­eas con­tinue to be hit by mor­tar and sniper fire, he said.

An­other Iraqi army com­man­der, Brig. Gen. Haidar Fadel, said a sui­cide car bomber hid­ing in­side a house at­tempted late Satur­day to drive his ve­hi­cle to­ward troops in the city’s Tahrir neigh­bor­hood. He was shot dead and his ex­plo­sives-laden car det­o­nated at a safe dis­tance, he added. How­ever, Fadel said the car ex­ploded close to a house, caus­ing it to col­lapse, killing four civil­ians and wound­ing four oth­ers.

The troops fight­ing in Mo­sul’s east­ern side laid siege Sun­day to the Al-Zo­hour neigh­bor­hood, about eight kilo­me­ters (five miles) from the city cen­ter. The ar­rival of the troops at the neigh­bor­hood’s fringes prompted hun­dreds of civil­ians to emerge from their homes wav­ing white flags and walk­ing to rel­a­tive safety be­hind army lines. “The biggest hin­drance to us is the civil­ians whose pres­ence is slow­ing us down,” de­clared al-Aridi of the spe­cial forces. “We are sol­diers who are not trained to carry out hu­man­i­tar­ian tasks.”

The Iraqi mil­i­tary be­gan the cam­paign one month ago to re­take Mo­sul, Iraq’s sec­ond largest city and the last ma­jor ur­ban cen­ter in the coun­try still held by the mil­i­tants. The cam­paign has been slow, with IS putting up stiff re­sis­tance. Most gains thus far have been made by the spe­cial forces op­er­at­ing in the sec­tion of Mo­sul east of the Ti­gris river. The cam­paign is be­ing as­sisted by airstrikes from the U.S.-led mil­i­tary coali­tion.

IS cap­tured Mo­sul, 360 kilo­me­ters north of Bagh­dad, in the sum­mer of 2014 as part of a blitz that placed nearly a third of Iraq un­der the mil­i­tants’ con­trol. Iraqi troops, fed­eral po­lice and al­lied Shi­ite and Sunni mili­tias have over the past year pushed IS mil­i­tants from most of the vast Sunni prov­ince of An­bar, west of Bagh­dad, and ar­eas to the north and east of the Iraqi cap­i­tal.

Army troops, mean­while, ar­rived on the out­skirts of Tal Afar west of Mo­sul to re­in­force the state-sanc­tioned Shi­ite mili­tias who have cap­tured the town’s air­port and are pre­par­ing to re­take the town, ac­cord­ing to two se­nior mili­tia of­fi­cials. They spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they were not autho­rized to brief the media. Prior to its cap­ture by IS, Shi­ites con­sti­tuted the ma­jor­ity of Tal Afar’s es­ti­mated 200,000 res­i­dents. Hu­man Rights Watch, mean­while, claimed in a re­port Sun­day that Sunni mili­ti­a­men fight­ing along­side the Iraqi mil­i­tary de­tained and beat 22 men from vil­lages near Mo­sul and re­cruited 10 chil­dren from dis­placed camps in the area to join the fight against IS. — AP

MO­SUL CITY: An Iraqi spe­cial forces sol­dier pa­trols at al-Tahrir neigh­bor­hood yes­ter­day. — AP

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