Iraqis Prepare S. Mosul Advance

So far, 45,000 have been displaced, the International Organization for Migration said
Mortars of the federal police forces are seen in the south of Mosul, Iraq, on Nov. 9.Mortars of the federal police forces are seen in the south of Mosul, Iraq, on Nov. 9.

Iraqi security forces are preparing to advance toward Mosul airport on the city’s southern edge to increase pressure on the self-styled Islamic State terrorists fighting troops who breached their eastern defenses, officers said on Thursday.

The rapid response forces, part of a coalition seeking to crush the terrorists in the largest city under their control in Iraq or Syria, took the town of Hammam al-Alil, just over 15 km south of Mosul, on Monday.

Officers say they plan to resume their advance north, up the western bank of Tigris River toward the city of 1.5 million people who have lived under IS for more than two years, Reuters reported.

More than three weeks after the US-backed campaign to retake Mosul was launched, the city is almost surrounded by the coalition of nearly 100,000 fighters. But troops have entered only a handful of neighborhoods in the east of the city.

“We need to put wider pressure on the enemy in different areas,” said Major-General Thamer al-Husseini, commander of the elite police unit which is run by the Interior Ministry.

He said operations would resume within two days.

Lieutenant-Colonel Dhiya Mizhir said the target was an area overlooking Mosul airport, which has been rendered unusable by IS to prevent attackers using it as a staging post for their offensive.

Army officers told Reuters in September the militants had moved concrete blast walls onto the runway to prevent planes from landing there.

Satellite pictures released by intelligence firm Stratfor also showed they had dug deep trenches in the runways and destroyed buildings to ensure clear lines of sight for defenders and to prevent advancing forces from using hangars or other facilities.

On the southern front, security forces took cover behind a mound of earth and fired at IS positions from armored gun turrets.

The village of Karama was mostly deserted apart from a handful of residents and a few dozen Iraqi forces. A cement factory they recaptured three days ago was battered by gunfire.

“They used car bombs as we moved in and this street was heavily mined, but the battle wasn’t hard,” said 19-year-old recruit Abdel Sattar.

  Nimrud Ruins

Separate forces advancing on the eastern side of the Tigris targeted two villages on Thursday on the edge of the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, a military statement said.

Troops from the Ninth Armoured Division took the village of Abbas Rajab, 4 km east of Nimrud and raised the Iraqi flag.

The Iraqi government says Nimrud was bulldozed last year as part of IS’s campaign to destroy symbols they consider idolatrous. It would be the first such site to be recaptured from the terrorists.

Counter-terrorism forces and an armored division fighting in the east of the city have been battling to hold on to half a dozen districts they surged into a week ago.

They have been hit by waves of attacks by IS units, including snipers, suicide bombers, assault fighters and mortar teams, who have used a network of tunnels under the city and civilian cover in the narrow streets to wear them down in lethal urban warfare.

The militants, who have ruled Mosul with ruthless violence, displayed bodies of at least 20 people across the city in the last two days—five of them crucified at a road junction—saying they had been killed for trying to make contact with the attacking forces, residents have said.

The United Nations has warned of a possible exodus of hundreds of thousands of refugees from the city. So far, 45,000 have been displaced, the International Organization for Migration said on Thursday.


Add new comment

Read our comment policy before posting your viewpoints