Iraqi spe­cial forces en­ter city lim­its

Malta Independent - - WORLD -

Iraqi forces have for the first time en­tered the eastern out­skirts of Mo­sul, as they at­tempt to drive Is­lamic State mil­i­tants from the north­ern city. The troops are fac­ing very stiff resistance. Rocket-pro­pelled grenades and small arms fire are be­ing di­rected at them.

Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Haider al-Abadi has told IS mil­i­tants dug in in­side Mo­sul, which they have held since June 2014, to “sur­ren­der or die”.

Speak­ing at the Qay­yarah air­base south of the city on Mon­day, Mr Abadi de­clared that govern­ment forces were ap­proach­ing from all an­gles and would “cut off the head of the snake”.

About 50,000 Iraqi se­cu­rity forces per­son­nel, Kur­dish fight­ers, Sunni Arab tribes­men and Shia mili­ti­a­men are in­volved in the two-weekold of­fen­sive to drive IS mil­i­tants out of their last ma­jor ur­ban strong­hold in the coun­try.

CTS units re­took Bazwaya, the last vil­lage be­fore Mo­sul’s eastern out­skirts, in a dawn as­sault on Mon­day and then ad­vanced on the Kuk­jali in­dus­trial zone.

They moved out again shortly be­fore first light yes­ter­day, this time with the aim of en­ter­ing Mo­sul, al­most two-and-a-half years since it fell to IS.

If the troops can es­tab­lish a foothold, it will be a big day for Iraq and all the other coun­tries in­volved in the fight against the ji­hadist group, our cor­re­spon­dent says.

How­ever, they are com­ing up against much more fierce resistance than he has seen in the past few days.

The troops have re­sponded to the RPG, ma­chine-gun and sniper fire with heavy weapons, and also by call­ing in air strikes by the US-led coali­tion against IS.

The Iraqi army’s ninth ar­moured di­vi­sion is mov­ing along the path cleared by the CTS troops and is re­port­edly 5km from the city lim­its.

Other army and Kur­dish units are ad­vanc­ing from the south and north, while the Shia-led Pop­u­lar Mo­bil­i­sa­tion force is seek­ing to seal off the western out­skirts.

Be­fore the op­er­a­tion be­gan on 17 Oc­to­ber, there were be­lieved to be be­tween 3,000 and 5,000 mil­i­tants re­main­ing in Mo­sul, along with up to 1.5 mil­lion civil­ians.

More than 17,900 res­i­dents have fled so far and, ac­cord­ing to the UN’s worst-case sce­nario, as many as 700,000 oth­ers could fol­low suit.

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