Kur­dish forces push into IS-held Bashiqa

Malta Independent - - WORLD -

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.

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