The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

Mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions against Is­lamic State fight­ers in Iraq’s sec­ond-largest city are pro­gress­ing, with tough bat­tles by Iraqi forces and fierce re­sis­tance from the ter­ror­ists, ac­cord­ing to Pen­tagon of­fi­cials fa­mil­iar with re­ports of the mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion.

Much of the fight­ing has been tak­ing place along a front in the east­ern part of the city, a region that is more eth­ni­cally di­verse than the dominant Sunni west­ern side.

Iraqi forces, Ira­nian-backed mili­tias and Kur­dish pesh­merga forces all are driv­ing to­ward the Ti­gris River from the east and have en­coun­tered nu­mer­ous sui­cide bomb­ing at­tacks along the way.

The Is­lamic State has been em­ploy­ing waves of sui­cide bombers against the ad­vanc­ing mil­i­tary forces.

Lead­ing the as­saults for the Baghdad gov­ern­ment are spe­cially trained troops known as the Counter Ter­ror­ism Ser­vice, or CTS, that have been ad­vanc­ing me­thod­i­cally in re­tak­ing east­ern Mo­sul neigh­bor­hoods.

One of the ad­vanc­ing forces’ re­cent dis­cov­er­ies was a mass grave near the town of Ham­mam al-Alil, south of Mo­sul along the Ti­gris.

U.S. and coali­tion air­craft, in­clud­ing bombers, fight­ers and drones, have con­ducted tens of at­tacks on Is­lamic State fight­ers, mainly fight­ing po­si­tions and snipers, in the past sev­eral days.

Mil­i­tary plan­ners say one key tar­get of the op­er­a­tion to re­take Mo­sul is the air­port, lo­cated about 12 miles south of the cen­ter city.

Pen­tagon of­fi­cials said the Is­lamic State fight­ers are ex­pected to re­treat west­ward and, as they do, to blow up the five Ti­gris River bridges lead­ing into Mo­sul in a bid to slow the ad­vance.

“The hard part is yet to come,” said a se­nior mil­i­tary of­fi­cer.

The plan is to en­cir­cle the city and then clear it of Is­lamic State fight­ers.

Is­lamic State de­fenses also in­clude con­crete bar­ri­cades. In­tel­li­gence pho­to­graphs have shown the streets be­hind the bar­ri­cades lined with cars — an in­di­ca­tion that the fight­ers are plan­ning to use car bombs against the ad­vanc­ing Iraqi forces.

“They’ve got [im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vices] im­planted along the en­tire route into the city,” the of­fi­cer said.

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