Iraqi Forces Push Deeper Into Mosul

Iraqi forces intensify their assault on IS in West Mosul while security forces find a mass grave in Khasfa sinkhole in Iraq’s desert
Iraqi forces advancing in West MosulIraqi forces advancing in West Mosul

Iraqi forces pushed deeper into western Mosul on Saturday, advancing in several populated southern districts after shattering the defenses in the last major urban stronghold of the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group in Iraq a day earlier.

About 1,000 civilians also walked across the frontlines, the largest movement since the new offensive launched last week to deal the terrorist group a decisive blow, Reuters reported.

The new push in Mosul comes after government forces and their allies finished clearing IS from the east of the northern Iraqi city last month, confining the insurgents to the western sector on the other side of the Tigris River.

Commanders expect the battle in western Mosul to be more difficult, in part because tanks and armored vehicles cannot pass through the narrow alleyways that crisscross ancient districts there.

But Iraqi forces have so far made quick advances on multiple fronts, capturing the northern city’s airport on Thursday, which they plan to use as a support zone.

The advancing forces are less than 3 kilometers from the mosque in the old city where IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate spanning Iraq and Syria in 2014, sparking an international military campaign to defeat the group.

Losing Mosul would likely deal a hammer blow to the militants’ dream of statehood, but they still control swathes of territory in Syria and patches of northern and western Iraq from where they could fight a guerrilla-style insurgency in Iraq, and plot attacks on the West.

Also on Saturday in the capital Baghdad, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir met Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in the first such visit in more than a decade between Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

  Mass Grave in Iraq Desert

The bodies of some 4,000 IS victims have been buried in the Khasfa sinkhole in Iraq’s desert, making it the country’s largest mass grave, according to locals, police and activists.

The sinkhole is located near the Baghdad-Mosul Highway, only 8 kilometers from Mosul, The Telegraph reported.

Witnesses and police, as well as human rights organizations, say the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group murdered and dumped the bodies of thousands of Iraqi troops into the sinkhole after they captured Mosul three years ago.

The majority were shot and thrown into the pit, locals said.

“IS would drive the victims to Khasfa in convoys of minibuses, trucks and pickups. The men had their hands bound and their eyes blindfolded. They were taken to the sinkhole and shot in the back of the head,” 40-year-old local villager Mahmoud said.

The terrorist killers were masked, the witness added.

Earlier this week, The Telegraph reportedly went to the Khasfa sinkhole.

The city has been under IS control since 2014 and the offensive to retake it began in October.

Human Rights Watch reported last November that IS had executed at least 300 policemen and buried them in a mass grave some 30 kilometers from Mosul.

Another mass grave containing 100 beheaded bodies was found earlier that month in a school outside of Mosul.

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