Iraqi forces ad­vance in Mo­sul

Na­tion ex­e­cutes airstrikes in Syria, where ISIS at­tack kills 60

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL - QAS­SIM AB­DUL-ZAHRA, SARAH EL DEEB AND AN­DREA ROSA

MO­SUL AIR­PORT, Iraq — As Iraqi ground troops pushed into western Mo­sul on Fri­day, the coun­try’s air force struck Is­lamic State tar­gets in­side Syria for the first time in re­sponse to re­cent bombings in Baghdad claimed by the mil­i­tants.

Mean­while, at least 60 peo­ple were killed in Is­lamic State at­tacks near a key north­ern Syr­ian town cap­tured only a day ear­lier from the ex­trem­ist group by Turkish forces and their Syr­ian op­po­si­tion al­lies.

Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Haider al-Abadi an­nounced the Iraqi airstrikes in Syria in a state­ment, say­ing the bor­der towns of Bouka­mal and Hus­seibah were tar­geted in re­sponse to re­cent bombings in Baghdad linked to Is­lamic State op­er­a­tions there.

Iraqi forces closely sup­ported by the U.S.-led in­ter­na­tional coali­tion pushed into the first neigh­bor­hood of western Mo­sul and took full con­trol of the city’s in­ter­na­tional air­port and a sprawl­ing mil­i­tary base on the south­west­ern edge of the city, Iraqi of­fi­cials said.

The ter­ri­to­rial gains were the most sig­nif­i­cant yet in the bat­tle, now in its sixth day, to rout Is­lamic State mil­i­tants from the western half of Iraq’s sec­ond-largest city.

As Iraqi war­planes struck Is­lamic State tar­gets across the bor­der, mil­i­tants in north­ern Syria staged a sui­cide car bomb at­tack out­side a se­cu­rity of­fice op­er­ated by the Syr­ian op­po­si­tion in a vil­lage 5 miles north of al-Bab, killing at least 60 peo­ple. Al-Bab had

been con­trolled by the Is­lamic State since late 2013, but the mil­i­tants re­treated Thurs­day af­ter more than two months of in­tense fight­ing.

Most of those killed in the vil­lage of Sou­sian were civil­ians await­ing per­mits and an es­cort to re­turn to al-Bab, a Syr­ian mil­i­tary com­man­der in the city said. At least six fight­ers were among those killed in the at­tack, ac­cord­ing to Turkey’s prime min­is­ter, who spoke in Ankara.

Hours af­ter the first ex­plo­sion in Sou­sian, an­other car bomb at­tack was re­ported in the vil­lage, killing at least eight peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to ac­tivist groups. There were no fur­ther de­tails on the at­tack, and the Aleppo Me­dia Cen­ter later took down the re­port.

An ad­di­tional ex­plo­sion was re­ported south of al-Bab, where two Turkish sol­diers were killed when an ex­plo­sive de­vice went off as they were re­mov­ing land mines, Turkey’s mil­i­tary said. The Bri­tain-based Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights cor­rob­o­rated the re­port, say­ing the ex­plo­sives det­o­nated near Tadif, an Is­lamic State-con­trolled town south of al-Bab. Turkish Prime Min­is­ter Bi­nali Yildirim, how­ever, called the ex­plo­sion a “sui­cide at­tack.” It was not im­me­di­ately pos­si­ble to rec­on­cile the ac­counts.

In Mo­sul, mean­while, Iraqi forces pushed into the Ma­mun neigh­bor­hood and en­gaged in in­tense clashes with the Is­lamic State mil­i­tants, ac­cord­ing to an Iraqi spe­cial forces of­fi­cer on the ground, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity in line with reg­u­la­tions.

Fed­eral po­lice Maj. Gen. Haider al- Ma­turi said his forces pushed through con­crete road­blocks and earthen berms set up by the Is­lamic State group, and suc­ceeded in cap­tur­ing around 30 per­cent of the Avi­a­tion Dis­trict, the first dis­trict en­ter­ing Mo­sul’s western perime­ter from the south.

“There were fierce clashes. We faced car bombs, sui­cide at­tack­ers and mor­tar shelling,” al-Ma­turi said. “The bat­tle ahead will be dif­fi­cult and com­pli­cated be­cause of the civil­ians around. It’ll be street fights.”

Al- Ma­turi said six Iraqi troops were wounded, in­clud­ing two of­fi­cers. A Cana­dian medic vol­un­teer­ing at a front­line clinic said he had treated at least 10 wounded fed­eral po­lice­men. Iraq’s mil­i­tary does not re­lease of­fi­cial ca­su­alty fig­ures.

Ear­lier Fri­day, the spokesman of the Joint Mil­i­tary Op­er­a­tion Com­mand, Brig. Gen. Yahya Ra­sool, said Iraqi forces had also re­taken the mil­i­tary base ad­ja­cent to the air­port.

The ad­vances came a day af­ter spe­cial forces joined the fight for western Mo­sul.

Both the Gha­zlani mil­i­tary base and the air­port will be key to the next steps in the daunt­ing bat­tle and will serve as a base of op­er­a­tions as Iraqi forces launch sub­se­quent pushes into western Mo­sul, which is di­vided by the Ti­gris River into two halves.

Iraqi au­thor­i­ties de­clared the city’s east­ern half “fully lib­er­ated” from the Sunni mil­i­tants in Jan­uary, three months af­ter launch­ing the op­er­a­tion to take back Mo­sul.

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