Iraqi troops re­sume Mo­sul fight af­ter 2-week lull

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -


Iraqi forces faced car bombs and fierce re­sis­tance from Is­lamic State mil­i­tants in south­ern Mo­sul yes­ter­day, the sec­ond day of a re­newed push to take back the city af­ter fight­ing stalled for sev­eral weeks. An of­fi­cer in the fed­eral po­lice forces, which joined the battle on Thurs­day, said there were heavy clashes in the south­east­ern Pales­tine dis­trict, but they had made progress in two other neigh­bour­hoods, dis­abling a num­ber of car bombs.

An­other of­fi­cer, from an elite In­te­rior Min­istry unit fight­ing along­side fed­eral po­lice, said his forces were gain­ing ground in the In­ti­sar dis­trict de­spite heavy clashes there. Other of­fi­cers said Iraqi forces in the east and north of the city were clear­ing ar­eas they had re­cap­tured on Thurs­day be­fore ad­vanc­ing any fur­ther, and the army was try­ing to cut sup­ply lines to the town of Tel Keyf, north of Mo­sul. Since the of­fen­sive be­gan 10 weeks ago, US-backed forces have re­taken a quar­ter of the ji­hadists’ last ma­jor strong­hold in Iraq in the big­gest ground op­er­a­tion there since the 2003 US-led in­va­sion that top­pled Sad­dam Hus­sein. Re­cap­tur­ing Mo­sul would prob­a­bly spell the end for Is­lamic State’s self-styled caliphate, and Prime Min­is­ter Haider alAbadi has said the group would be driven out of Iraq by April.

Elite forces pushed into Mo­sul from the east in Oc­to­ber but reg­u­lar army troops tasked with ad­vanc­ing from the north and south made slower progress and the op­er­a­tion stag­nated. Af­ter re­group­ing this month, Iraqi forces ad­vanced on Thurs­day on the south, north and east of the city, which has been un­der Is­lamic State con­trol for more than two years. Al­though the mil­i­tants are vastly out­num­bered, they have em­bed­ded them­selves among Mo­sul res­i­dents, hin­der­ing Iraqi forces who are try­ing to avoid civil­ian ca­su­al­ties. De­spite food and water short­ages, most civil­ians have stayed in their homes rather than flee­ing as had been ex­pected.

Re­cap­tured ar­eas

On the noth­ern front, Iraqi forces have yet to en­ter Mo­sul it­self but yes­ter­day they were clear­ing just-re­cap­tured ar­eas on its pe­riph­ery as well as try­ing to cut off Tel Keyf. “The en­emy had oc­cu­pied this area and used it for rest­ing and re­sup­ply­ing to­wards Tel Keyf and Mo­sul,” Ma­jor Gen­eral Najm al-Jub­bouri, a top com­man­der in the of­fen­sive told Reuters in the north­ern dis­trict of Sada, which was re­cap­tured on Thurs­day. “It (Tel Keyf) is sur­rounded from the other sides and by our forces here,” he said.

Jub­bouri said the US-led coali­tion back­ing Iraqi forces had killed 70 mil­i­tants since late on Thurs­day and were us­ing Apache he­li­copters, HIMARS rocket launch­ers and fighter jets. Iraqi forces have taken around half of the east­ern side of Mo­sul, which is bi­sected by the Ti­gris river, but have yet to en­ter the west­ern side, where 2,000-year-old mar­kets and nar­row al­ley­ways are likely to com­pli­cate any ad­vance. Coali­tion forces bombed the last re­main­ing bridge con­nect­ing east and west Mo­sul late on Mon­day in a bid to block Is­lamic State’s ac­cess across the Ti­gris River. A med­i­cal source in Mo­sul told Reuters a large num­ber of wounded mil­i­tants had been fer­ried across the river to the emer­gency hos­pi­tal on the west­ern side of city on Thurs­day. The source said the mil­i­tants were deny­ing wounded and sick civil­ians ac­cess to the hos­pi­tal. — Reuters

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