Iraq forces press Mo­sul as­sault, hunt Kirkuk at­tack­ers

The Myanmar Times - - World -

IRAQI forces bat­tled through booby­traps, sniper fire and sui­cide car bombs to tighten the noose around Mo­sul, while also hunt­ing Is­lamic State group ji­hadists be­hind at­tacks else­where in the coun­try.

Kur­dish forces an­nounced a new push at dawn on Bashiqa, north­east of Mo­sul, where some 10,000 fight­ers are en­gaged in a huge as­sault to take the IS-held town.

Turkey’s Prime Min­is­ter Bi­nali Yildirim said the pesh­merga had re­quested and re­ceived mil­i­tary as­sis­tance in the form of ar­tillery, tanks and how­itzers.

Ankara’s claim came a day af­ter Bagh­dad turned down a sug­ges­tion by vis­it­ing US De­fence chief Ash­ton Carter – who met Kur­dish leader Mas­sud Barzani – that Turkey be given a part in the bat­tle.

Launched on Oc­to­ber 17, the as­sault aims to re­claim the last ma­jor Iraqi city un­der IS con­trol, deal­ing an­other set­back to the ji­hadists’ self-de­clared “caliphate” in Iraq and neigh­bour­ing Syria.

Mr Carter said the idea of si­mul­ta­ne­ous op­er­a­tions against Mo­sul and Raqa in Syria “has been part of our plan­ning for quite a while”, adding that de­stroy­ing IS’s op­er­a­tions ca­pa­bil­i­ties was “our high­est pri­or­ity”.

The ji­hadists on Oc­to­ber 21 staged a sur­prise as­sault on Iraq’s Kur­dish-con­trolled city of Kirkuk, and two days later se­cu­rity forces were still track­ing down IS fight­ers there.

The dozens of at­tack­ers, in­clud­ing sev­eral sui­cide bombers, failed to seize key gov­ern­ment build­ings but sowed chaos in the large oil-rich and eth­ni­cally mixed city.

At least 51 of the ji­hadists have been killed, in­clud­ing three more on Oc­to­ber 23, lo­cal se­cu­rity of­fi­cials said, adding 46 peo­ple, most of them in the se­cu­rity forces, were also killed in the raid and en­su­ing clashes.

Life was re­turn­ing to nor­mal in some parts of Kirkuk, but se­cu­rity forces in south­ern neigh­bour­hoods were still hunt­ing for gun­men.

The IS also at­tacked Rutba, a re­mote town near the Jor­da­nian bor­der in the western prov­ince of An­bar, with five sui­cide car bombs, the area’s top army com­man­der said.

The at­tack­ers briefly seized the mayor’s of­fice but se­cu­rity forces quickly re­gained the up­per hand and took back con­trol, he said.

Ob­servers have ex­pressed deep con­cern for an es­ti­mated 1.2 mil­lion civil­ians still be­lieved to be in the city.

Over 5000 peo­ple are cur­rently dis­placed and in need of hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance, the United Na­tions said, adding that the num­ber could spike to 1 mil­lion, spark­ing an un­prece­dented hu­man­i­tar­ian emer­gency in a coun­try where more than 3 mil­lion peo­ple have al­ready been forced from their homes since the start of 2014. –

Photo: AFP

Iraqi Kur­dish leader Mas­sud Barzani (left) wel­comes US Sec­re­tary of De­fence Ash­ton Carter ahead of a meet­ing in Ar­bil on Oc­to­ber 23.

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