Kurdish forces push into IS-held Bashiqa
Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces are battling Islamic State militants inside a town north-east of the city of Mosul.
Hundreds of Peshmerga fighters, backed by artillery and US-led coalition air strikes, advanced on Bashiqa from three directions yesterday morning.
By the early afternoon, they had taken control of about half of the town, according to the Iraqi military.
Bashiqa was surrounded two weeks ago as part of a wider offensive by Iraqi pro-government forces to retake Mosul.
Iraqi special forces and army units entered the city’s eastern outskirts six days ago, and have since pushed into a number of districts.
However, their progress has been slowed by suicide car bombs, booby traps and the need to engage in house-to-house fighting along narrow streets.
Mosul, which fell to IS in 2014, is the jihadists’ last major urban stronghold in Iraq.
Artillery and aircraft bombarded Bashiqa, about 12km from Mosul, before the Kurdish operation to clear the town got under way.
As the attack progressed, a correspondent for the Kurdish news agency, Rudaw, reported that the militants inside were putting up limited resistance.
A number had targeted Peshmerga positions with suicide bombs or blown themselves up when surrounded, without causing any casualties, he said.
Rudaw posted a video showing what it said was a bus packed with explosives that was destroyed in a coalition air strike on the edge of Bashiqa.
On Sunday evening, the US special presidential envoy to the multinational coalition against IS, Brett McGurk, declared that the threeweek offensive on Mosul was “very much on track”.
“Everything in Mosul is ahead of schedule on all axes of advance but Daesh, as we expected, is putting up a fierce fight and I expect this will take some time to conclude,” he said, using a pejorative term for IS based on the acronym of a previous name in Arabic.
Mr McGurk also outlined how he expected the operation to retake the IS-held northern Syrian city of Raqqa, launched by a US-backed alliance of Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters earlier on Sunday, would proceed in “very deliberate phases”.
“There is an isolation phase which began today, and there will be subsequent phases to make sure that that we kick [IS] out of Raqqa,” he added.