Heavy clashes after Kirkuk attacks
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.