Iraqi Peshmerga Attack IS-held Town

The IS leader has told his followers there can be no retreat in a “total war” with their enemies, while reports said he has fled from Mosul
Iraqi Kurdish forces continued to fight IS militants outside Mosul, Iraq, on Nov. 7.Iraqi Kurdish forces continued to fight IS militants outside Mosul, Iraq, on Nov. 7.

Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces attacked a town in the northeast of Mosul held by the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group on Monday, trying to clear a pocket of militants outside the city while Iraqi troops wage a fierce urban war with the terrorists in its eastern neighborhoods.

The first waves of a 2,000-strong peshmerga force entered Bashiqa, some in armored vehicles or Humvees and others on foot, after artillery pounded the town at the foot of a mountain about 15 km across the Nineveh plains from Mosul.

“Our aim is to take control and clear out all the Islamic State militants,” Lieutenant-Colonel Safeen Rasoul said. “Our estimates are there are about 100 still left and 10 suicide cars.”

IS fighters have sought to slow the offensive on their Mosul stronghold, which entered its fourth week on Monday, with waves of suicide car bomb attacks. Iraqi commanders say there have been 100 on the eastern front and 140 in the south, Reuters reported.

A top Kurdish official told Reuters on Sunday the militants had also deployed drones strapped with explosives, long-range artillery shells filled with chlorine gas and mustard gas and trained snipers.

As a peshmerga column moved into Bashiqa on Monday, a loud explosion rocked the convoy, and two large plumes of white smoke could be seen just 50 feet (15 meters) away. A peshmerga officer said two suicide car bombs had tried to hit the advancing force.

In eastern districts of Mosul, which Iraqi special forces broke into last week, officers say militants melted into the population, ambushing and isolating troops in what the special forces spokesman called the world’s “toughest urban warfare”.

  Twin Offensives

Mosul, the largest IS-controlled city in either Iraq or Syria, has been held by the group since its fighters drove the army out of northern Iraq in June 2014.

The Mosul campaign, the most complex military operation in Iraq in a decade, brings together a force of around 100,000 soldiers, security forces, Shia militias and peshmerga, backed by a US-led coalition, to crush the terrorists.

Across the border, US-backed Syrian fighters have launched their own campaign, called Euphrates Anger, to recapture IS’s Syrian bastion of Raqqa.

Twin offensives on Raqqa and Mosul could bring to an end the self-styled caliphate declared by the fugitive IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi from the pulpit of a Mosul mosque in 2014.

Baghdadi has told his followers there can be no retreat in a “total war” with their enemies, while reports said he has fled from Mosul. The militants in Mosul have been waging a fierce and brutal defense, although they have lost ground on all fronts outside the city itself.

To the south of Mosul, security forces said they had recaptured and secured Hammam al-Alil from IS fighters, who they said had kept thousands in the town as human shields as well as marching many others alongside retreating militants towards Mosul as cover from airstrikes.

The security forces on the southern front have continued their advance, reaching within 4 km of Mosul’s airport, on the southern edge of the city and on the western bank of the Tigris River that runs through its center.

To the north, a military statement said the army’s 16th Infantry Division had also recaptured the village of Bawiza and entered another area, Sada, on the city’s northern limits, further tightening the circle of forces around IS.

Popular Mobilization Forces are also fighting to the west of Mosul to seal the routes to the IS-held town of Tal Afar and its territory in neighboring Syria, to prevent any retreat or reinforcement.


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