Heavy clashes af­ter Kirkuk at­tacks

7 Days in Dubai - - GLOBAL NEWS -

Iraqi forces pushed into a town near the ISISheld city of Mo­sul yes­ter­day af­ter a wave of mil­i­tant at­tacks in and around the north­ern city of Kirkuk set off more than 24 hours of heavy clashes, with on­go­ing skir­mishes in some ar­eas.

US De­fence Sec­re­tary Ash Carter mean­while ar­rived in Bagh­dad on an unan­nounced visit to meet with Iraqi com­man­ders to dis­cuss the of­fen­sive to re­take Mo­sul, which the US is sup­port­ing with airstrikes and ad­vis­ers on the ground.

The Iraqi army said the 9th Divi­sion has pushed into the town of Ham­daniyah, also known as Qaraqosh and Bakhdida, and raised the flag over its cen­tral gov­ern­ment com­pound, but the troops were likely still fac­ing re­sis­tance in and around the town. Sim­i­lar past an­nounce­ments have of­ten proved pre­ma­ture.

Two of­fi­cers from the 9th Divi­sion con­firmed troops had cap­tured the gov­ern­ment com­pound and raised the flag over it. They spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rised to re­lease the in­for­ma­tion. The town is about 20km from Mo­sul.

Iraqi forces launched a wide-scale of­fen­sive ear­lier this week aimed at re­tak­ing Mo­sul, the coun­try’s sec­ond largest city, which fell to ISIS in 2014.

Ham­daniyah is be­lieved to be largely un­in­hab­ited. ISIS has heav­ily mined the ap­proaches to Mo­sul and Iraqi forces have had to con­tend with road­side bombs, snipers and sui­cide truck bombs as they move closer to the city.

ISIS said it foiled an at­tack on Ham­daniyah and seized ve­hi­cles and weapons left by re­treat­ing Shia mili­ti­a­men. The claim, car­ried by the ex­trem­ist group’s Aa­maq news agency, could not be con­firmed.

An Iraqi TV sta­tion said one of its re­porters was shot dead near Mo­sul, the sec­ond jour­nal­ist in as many days to be killed while cov­er­ing the con­flict.

Al­sumaria TV said cam­era­man Ali Risan was shot in the chest by a sniper yes­ter­day dur­ing a bat­tle in the Al Shura area. Jour­nal­ist Ah­met Haceroglu of Turkmeneli TV was shot dead by a mil­i­tant sniper on Fri­day, while cov­er­ing the ISIS as­sault on Kirkuk.

Iraqi forces re­took the town of Bartella, bout 15km east of Mo­sul, ear­lier this week, but are still fac­ing pock­ets of re­sis­tance in the area. ISIS mil­i­tants launched a rocket and opened fire on an Iraqi con­voy near the town yes­ter­day.

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