Iraqi Kurds seize IS-held town near Mo­sul

The Myanmar Times - - World -

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. –

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