Iraqis send­ing re­in­force­ments as at­tack slows

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Su­san­nah Ge­orge

qayara air base, iraq» Re­in­force­ments have been sent to eastern Mo­sul af­ter a ma­jor Is­lamic State coun­ter­at­tack drove troops back last week, fur­ther slow­ing a nearly 2month-old of­fen­sive to re­take the city, ac­cord­ing to an Iraqi com­man­der.

Maj. Gen. Na­jim al-Jabouri said Satur­day that Fed­eral Po­lice and Iraqi army units have moved from the south­ern front to the city’s east, where most of the fight­ing has been con­cen­trated in re­cent weeks. Iraqi com­man­ders had hoped to push up from the south to take Mo­sul’s in­ter­na­tional air­port, but those plans ap­pear to be on hold.

Iraqi forces are still largely de­pen­dent on airstrikes and ar­tillery to clear ter­ri­tory, which has frus­trated progress on the ground in Mo­sul due to the hun­dreds of thou­sands of civil­ians still liv­ing in the city.

Cpt. Alexan­dre, a com­man­der of a French ar­tillery unit sta­tioned at Qayara air base, es­ti­mated that his men had fired more than a thou­sand rounds from the base since the Mo­sul op­er­a­tion was launched in Oc­to­ber. He spoke to The As­so­ci­ated Press on con­di­tion that only his first name and rank be pub­lished due to French govern­ment re­stric­tions.

“Ar­tillery pro­vides us with flex­i­bil­ity to con­duct pre­ci­sion strikes,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Ali­son Thomp­son, ex­plain­ing that in ur­ban en­vi­ron­ments, pre­ci­sion strikes are used to min­i­mize dam­age to in­fra­struc­ture.

Coali­tion planes car­ried out nine airstrikes in and around Mo­sul on Fri­day, de­stroy­ing build­ings, ve­hi­cles and sup­ply routes, ac­cord­ing to a Pen­tagon state­ment re­leased Satur­day.

Also Satur­day, Lt. Gen. Ab­dul-Amir Yarel­lah an­nounced in a writ­ten state­ment that Iraq’s special forces had re­taken two more neigh­bor­hoods in eastern Mo­sul bring­ing them within a few kilo­me­ters of the Ti­gris river which roughly di­vides the city’s east from west.

Iraqi troops were driven back last week within hours of seiz­ing the al-Salam hos­pi­tal in eastern Mo­sul, which the Is­lamic State ter­ror­ist group had been us­ing as a base.

More than 20 sol­diers were killed.

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