Iraqi Kurds seize IS-held town near Mosul
IRAQI Kurdish forces have seized the town of Bashiqa near Mosul from the Islamic State group, an official said, as US-backed militia forces advanced on the jihadists’ Syrian stronghold Raqa.
Capturing Bashiqa would be a final step in securing the eastern approaches to Mosul, three weeks into an offensive by Iraqi forces to retake the country’s second city.
Iraqi troops have also seized the town of Hamam al-Alil south of Mosul, as investigators carried out an initial examination of a mass grave site discovered in the area.
Bashiqa was under the “complete control” of Kurdish peshmerga forces, Jabbar Yawar, secretary general of the Kurdish regional ministry responsible for the fighters, said.
“Our forces are sweeping the city,” Mr Yawar said, adding that there were still some suicide bombers and snipers there, and that about 5 percent of Bashiqa remained under jihadist control.
Iraqi forces have been tightening the noose around Mosul since launching the offensive on October 17, with elite troops last week breaching city limits.
Upping pressure on the jihadists, the Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia alliance on November 5 began its own offensive on Islamic State’s other main bastion, Raqa in Syria.
Raqa and Mosul are the last major cities in Syria and Iraq under Islamic State control, and their capture would deal a knockout blow to the self-styled “caliphate” it declared in mid-2014.
The US-led coalition that launched operations against IS two years ago is providing crucial backing to both offensives, with air strikes and special forces advisers on the ground.
More than 1 million people are believed to be in Mosul. Raqa in 2011 had a pre-war population of some 240,000, and more than 80,000 people have since fled there from elsewhere in Syria. –