NIGHT RAID TURNS DEADLY FOR IRAQI TROOPS

New Straits Times - - World -

Hours af­ter Mo­sul’s mu­nic­i­pal com­plex was de­clared lib­er­ated by the coun­try’s top mil­i­tary com­man­ders and United States-led coali­tion of­fi­cials, the wounded be­gan pour­ing into a small front­line clinic just a few hun­dred me­tres away.

“Daesh had ev­ery­thing planned,” said Hamza Daoud of the fed­eral po­lice, who helped rush his in­jured comrades out of a bat­tered Humvee and onto stretch­ers in the gar­den of an aban­doned build­ing.

“As we first ad­vanced, there was no re­sis­tance (from the Is­lamic State group), but once we en­tered, they woke up,” Daoud said, ex­plain­ing he was only able to get out by ram­ming through a makeshift road­block.

“We were stuck there, noth­ing could reach us. I barely es­caped. The snipers hit my car twice but I never touched the brakes once.”

Iraqi forces launched a dar­ing night­time raid in the early hours of Tues­day on the sprawl­ing com­plex of mu­nic­i­pal build­ings the city’s west along the Ti­gris River.

Be­gin­ning just af­ter mid­night, Iraq’s emer­gency re­sponse di­vi­sion, an elite arm of the fed­eral po­lice, led the at­tack. Ini­tially ad­vanc­ing some half a dozen blocks past the front­line in ar­moured ve­hi­cles, but breach­ing the com­plex it­self on foot.

Af­ter fac­ing very lit­tle re­sis­tance, regular fed­eral po­lice units fol­lowed and by 6.30am, an Iraqi flag had been hoisted above the tallest gov­ern­ment build­ing.

But by 11am, clashes in­side the com­pound had in­ten­si­fied and com­man­ders be­hind the front were get­ting fran­tic ra­dio calls for help as hun­dreds of troops were trapped.

Sergeant Azam Ibrahim of the fed­eral po­lice was one of the first to en­ter the com­plex, but he and most of his unit fled as the coun­ter­at­tacks in­ten­si­fied.

“All of a sud­den (IS fight­ers) be­gan pop­ping up ev­ery­where. They emerged from nowhere.”

Snipers be­gan to fire down on Iraqi forces from the build­ings above and con­cealed sui­cide car bombs rammed their con­voys.

Ibrahim said he was trapped in the com­plex for hours as IS fight­ers moved out from un­cleared neigh­bour­hoods and cut the routes his forces used to en­ter.

Com­man­ders said the hasty ad­vances were in­tended to give them the el­e­ment of sur­prise, but the blun­der showed how Iraqi forces con­tin­ued to strug­gle with con­duct­ing me­thod­i­cal ur­ban op­er­a­tions un­der po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary pres­sure for a speedy wrap up to the Mo­sul war.

As IS coun­ter­at­tacks on the mu­nic­i­pal­ity bal­looned, Iraqi forces re­sponded with ar­tillery.

A pair of he­li­copters fired down onto the com­plex and airstrikes could be heard through­out the day. The sky above the mu­nic­i­pal­ity filled with black smoke.

Civil­ians trick­led out of the area car­ry­ing their pos­ses­sions in over­stuffed suit­cases.

“The sit­u­a­tion is not good hon­estly, there is so much de­struc­tion,” Iman Is­sam said as she fled with her teenage daugh­ter.

By af­ter­noon, fed­eral po­lice units were be­ing sent from a nearby base to try and free the hun­dreds of troops in the mu­nic­i­pal­ity build­ings.

The front­line clinic was re­ceiv­ing ca­su­al­ties in waves.

As one Humvee ar­rived, two men were pulled from the back­seats, their uni­forms soaked with blood. Both were suf­fer­ing from gun­shot wounds.

One man had been shot in the leg, the other shot twice in his side, caus­ing ma­jor bleed­ing.

The man shot in the side had been hit while try­ing to drag an in­jured friend to safety.

Medics ban­daged his wounds and hooked him up to an in­tra­venous drip, but within min­utes, he died. Four doc­tors lifted him into a dark blue body bag and moved him to the ground. A fel­low solider piled the man’s uni­form and boots be­side his body.

“The plan was stupid,” Daoud, the fed­eral po­lice sol­dier who brought two ca­su­al­ties to the clinic on Tues­day, said.

“I don’t know why we did that.”

REUTERS PIC

A spe­cial forces mem­ber rests dur­ing a bat­tle with Is­lamic State mil­i­tants in western Mo­sul, Iraq, on Tues­day.

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