West Mosul Breached as War on IS Rages in Iraq, Syria

Iraqi security forces advance toward the village of al-Buseif on February 21, during their offensive to retake western Mosul.Iraqi security forces advance toward the village of al-Buseif on February 21, during their offensive to retake western Mosul.

Iraqi forces on Friday entered west Mosul neighborhoods, a key stronghold in the shrinking “caliphate” of the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group, which replied with deadly suicide attacks in Iraq and Syria.

As the war on the world’s most violent militant group escalated, Iraqi warplanes struck IS militants inside neighboring Syria, a first that Damascus said was coordinated between the two governments.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that the air force struck targets on the Syrian side of the border, in Albu Kamal and Husseibeh areas, AFP reported.

In yet another key landmark in the bloody offensive to retake Mosul, the largest city ever held by the terrorists, elite Iraqi forces punched into districts of the west bank for the first time.

Iraqi Interior Ministry’s elite Rapid Response force, which retook Mosul airport on Thursday, kept its momentum and broke into the adjacent Jawsaq neighborhood.

They were met by mortar fire and snipers but also by ululating women celebrating the end of more than two and half years of tyrannical rule and by men begging for cigarettes.

The elite Counter-Terrorism Service that did most of the fighting in the four-month-old Mosul offensive entered a neighborhood further west along the city’s southern limits.

“IS is using vehicle bombs—this morning three were destroyed. We have some injuries from the weaponized drones and mortars,” Staff Lieutenant General Abdul Wahab al-Saadi, a top CTS commander, said just south of Mosul.

It was not immediately clear whether Iraqi forces would keep venturing deeper into west Mosul or consolidate their positions on the edges ahead of dangerous operations toward the center.

The fight “has moved very fast so far but we’ll see what happens in the next stage. It might be more difficult”, Saadi admitted.

The loss of west Mosul would be a death blow to the militants’ claim they are running a “state” and leave the city of Raqqa in neighboring Syria as the only major urban center they still control.

IS still holds scattered pockets of territory across Iraq and Syria but has suffered a string of setbacks in the past year and over the past few hours also lost their last bastion in Syria’s Aleppo Province.

Turkey said on Friday its troops and the Syrian militants it backs had fully retaken the town of Al-Bab after weeks of fierce IS resistance, but the terrorists replied with a deadly suicide bombing there, killing 51 people.

IS claimed the attack outside Al-Bab, in Susian.

An IS suicide bomber driving an explosives-laden vehicle and gunmen also attacked an Iraqi position near Jordan on Friday, killing at least 15 border guards, officials said.

Friday’s raid was the deadliest to date against the border guard.


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