Iraqi forces ad­vance near Mo­sul as IS at­tacks western town

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - WEATHER - By Qas­sim Ab­dul-Zahra and Joseph Krauss

KHAZER, IRAQ >> Iraqi Kur­dish forces pushed to­ward Mo­sul on Sun­day, cor­don­ing off eight vil­lages and com­ing within 5½ miles of the north­ern city held by the Is­lamic State group, which staged an at­tack in a western town hun­dreds of miles away in an ap­par­ent di­ver­sion­ary tac­tic.

The Kur­dish forces, known as pesh­merga, said the area they cor­doned off mea­sures around 100 square kilo­me­ters (38 square miles), and that they also se­cured a “sig­nif­i­cant stretch” of high­way. The state­ment said eight car bombs were de­stroyed in the op­er­a­tion, in­clud­ing three by U.S.-led coali­tion air­craft, and “dozens” of mil­i­tants were killed.

The of­fen­sive near the town of Bashiqa came nearly a week af­ter Iraq an­nounced the start of the long-awaited Mo­sul of­fen­sive. Iraqi and Kur­dish forces are ap­proach­ing from the north, east and south through a belt of mostly aban­doned and heav­ily mined vil­lages scat­tered across the Ninevah plain.

Maj. Gen. Haider Fadhi, of Iraq’s spe­cial forces said they also took part in the op­er­a­tion, and that Bashiqa was com­pletely en­cir­cled.

IS has put up stiff re­sis­tance in many ar­eas and has car­ried out at­tacks fur­ther afield that ap­pear aimed at di­vert­ing at­ten­tion from the Mo­sul op­er­a­tion.

IS mil­i­tants stormed into the town of Rutba, in far western Iraq, un­leash­ing three sui­cide car bombs that were blown up be­fore hit­ting their tar­gets, ac­cord­ing to the spokesman for the Joint Mil­i­tary Com­mand, Brig. Gen. Yahya Ra­sool.

He said some mil­i­tants were killed, with­out giv­ing an ex­act fig­ure, and de­clined to say whether any civil­ians or Iraqi forces were killed. He said the mil­i­tants did not seize any govern­ment build­ings and that the sit­u­a­tion “is un­der con­trol.”

The IS-run Aa­maq news agency had ear­lier said mil­i­tants stormed Rutba from sev­eral di­rec­tions.

Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the top U.S. com­man­der in Iraq, con­firmed there had been a com­plex at­tack in Rutba and said he ex­pects more such di­ver­sion­ary at­tacks as Iraqi forces close in on Mo­sul.

IS car­ried out a large as­sault on the north­ern city of Kirkuk on Fri­day, in which more than 50 mil­i­tants stormed govern­ment com­pounds and other tar­gets, set­ting off more than 24 hours of heavy fight­ing and killing at least 80 peo­ple, mainly se­cu­rity forces.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Iraq’s elite coun­tert­er­ror­ism forces pa­trol out­side the town of Bartella, Iraq, on Satur­day.

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