Disrupted by airstrikes
Town near Mosul taken by troops
Iraqi forces pushed into a town south of Mosul yesterday after ISIS fighters fled with civilians used as human shields.
Iraqi troops approaching Mosul from the south advanced into Shura after a wave of airstrikes and artillery shelling against militant positions inside the town.
Commanders said most of the ISIS fighters withdrew earlier this week with civilians, but that US airstrikes had disrupted the forced march, allowing some civilians to escape.
“After all this shelling, I don’t think we will face much resistance,” said Iraqi army Maj Gen Najim Al Jabouri. “This is easy, because there are no civilians left. The big challenge for us is always the civilians.”
Lt Col Hussein Nazim of the militarised Federal Police, which is leading the advance from the south, said some civilians, mainly the elderly and infirm, might still be in the city, but that the use of heavy artillery and airstrikes was a standard tactic.
“We must strike like this before we move in or else we will be easy prey for Daesh,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.
Iraqi forces launched a massive operation to retake militant-held Mosul last week.
The offensive to retake Iraq’s second largest city, which is still home to more than one million people, is expected to take weeks, if not months.
State- sanctioned Shia militias meanwhile launched an assault to the west of Mosul aimed at driving ISIS from the town of Tel Afar, which had a majority Shia population before it fell to the militants in the summer of 2014.
They will also try to secure the western border with Syria, where ISIS shuttles fighters, weapons and supplies between Mosul and the Syrian city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of its self-styled caliphate.
The offensive involves more than 25,000 soldiers, Federal Police, Kurdish fighters, Sunni tribesmen and the Shia militias.