ISIS fire missiles in fierce resistance
Iraq’s special forces entered the outskirts of Mosul yesterday and were advancing toward its more urban centre despite fierce resistance by ISIS fighters who hold the city.
It was the first time Iraqi troops have set foot in the city, Iraq’s second largest, in more than two years. The advance could be the start of a gruelling and slow operation for the troops, who will be forced to engage in difficult fighting in urban areas that is expected to take weeks, if not months.
Troops entered Gogjali, a neighbourhood inside Mosul, and were only 800 metres from the more built-up Karama district, according to Maj. Gen. Sami al-Aridi of the Iraqi special forces.
“The special forces have stormed in,” he said. “Daesh is fighting back and have set up concrete blast walls to block off the Karama neighbourhood and our troops’ advance.” He added that bombs have been laid along the road into the city.
Mosul is the final ISIS bastion in Iraq, the city from which it drove out a larger but demoralised Iraqi army in 2014 and declared a “caliphate” that stretched into Syria.
Its loss would be a major defeat for ISIS, but with the closest Iraqi troops still some 10 kilometres from the centre, much ground remains to be covered.
Yesterday’s battle opened up with Iraqi artillery, tank and machine gun fire on ISIS positions on the edge of Gogjali neighbourhood, with the extremists responding with guided anti-tank missiles and small arms in an attempt to block the advance.
Airstrikes by the US-led coalition supporting the operation added to the fire hitting the district. From the nearby village of Bazwaya, smoke could be seen rising from buildings on the city’s edge, where shells and bombs were landing.
ISIS fighters lit special fires to produce dark smoke and obscure the aerial view of the city.