Iraqi gen­eral calls on Mo­sul fight­ers to quit

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Qas­sim Ab­dul-Zahra Bal­ti­more Sun re­porter Ian Dun­can contributed to this ar­ti­cle.

KHAZER, Iraq — A seni or Iraqi gen­eral on Wed­nes­day called on Iraqis fight­ing for the Is­lamic State group in Mo­sul to sur­ren­der as a wide-scale op­er­a­tion to re­take the mil­i­tant-held city en­tered its third day.

The mil­i­tants have put up fierce re­sis­tance in vil­lages sur­round­ing the city, where most of the fight­ing has been con­cen­trated. The Is­lamic State, also called ISIS, has sent trucks loaded with ex­plo­sives ca­reen­ing to­ward the front lines and fired mor­tars to slow the Iraqi forces’ ad­vance.

Lt. Gen. Talib Shaghati told re­porters at a mil­i­tary base that up to 6,000 ISIS fight­ers are in­side the city.

At­tack planes from the Mary­land Air Na­tional Guard are aid­ing the of­fen­sive. Col. Charles S. Kohler, a spokesman for the Guard, con­firmed that the air­craft were tak­ing part in the bat­tle but de­clined to pro­vide any fur­ther de­tails for se­cu­rity rea­sons. A dozen A-10s and 280 air­men from the Guard’s 104th Fighter Squadron de­ployed to the Mid­dle East last week, just days be­fore the fight to re­take Mo­sul be­gan. The planes are sched­uled to be re­tired in 2020 and the de­ploy­ment to fight the Is­lamic State could be their last.

Amer­i­can of­fi­cials have pro­vided few de­tails on how U.S. forces are aid­ing the ef­fort.

A Pen­tagon spokesman said Tues­day that more than 100 U.S. troops are em­bed­ded with Iraqi forces, in­clud­ing the Kur­dish fight­ers known as pesh­merga, as they ad­vance to­ward Mo­sul.

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told re­porters the Amer­i­cans are “well back” from the front lines as they ad­vise the Iraqis and per­form other tasks such as re­lay­ing in­for­ma­tion about po­ten­tial airstrike tar­gets. Hun­dreds of other U.S. troops are in sup­port roles, such as pro­cess­ing in­tel­li­gence and pro­vid­ing lo­gis­ti­cal help from Iraqi stag­ing bases.

Kohler de­clined to say how many sor­ties the Mary­land planes have flown as part of the bat­tle or whether they have been in­volved in any strikes.

ISIS cap­tured Mo­sul, one of Iraq’s largest cities, in a light­ning ad­vance in the sum­mer of 2014. The ex­trem­ist group has suf- fered a string of de­feats over the past year, and Mo­sul is its last ma­jor ur­ban bas­tion in Iraq.

An Iraqi of­fi­cer from the 9th Divi­sion said his troops were now around a halfmile away from Ham­daniyah to the east of Mo­sul.

Over the past day, ISIS sent 12 car bombs, all of which were blown up be­fore reach­ing their tar­gets, he said, adding that Iraqi troops suf­fered a small num­ber of ca­su­al­ties from the mor­tar rounds.

To the north, airstrikes pounded Bashiqa as Kur­dish forces fired mor­tar rounds from an area over­look­ing the ISIS- held town.

Save the Chil­dren said 5,000 peo­ple have fled to a refugee camp in north­east­ern Syria from the Mo­sul area in the last 10 days, with an­other 1,000 wait­ing to en­ter at the bor­der.

The group said the camp is “lit­tered with waste and fe­ces, with a loom­ing risk of out­breaks of disease.”

The U.N. be­lieves up to 1.5 mil­lion peo­ple in Mo­sul will be at great risk of be­ing tar­geted, caught in cross­fire, ex­pelled or used as hu­man shields.

AP

An Iraqi mil­i­tary con­voy ad­vances to­ward Mo­sul on Wed­nes­day, the third day of bat­tle.

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