2 Nov 2016

Mosul battle: Iraqi special forces enter city limits

8:25 am on 2 November 2016

Iraqi forces have for the first time entered the eastern outskirts of Mosul, as they attempt to drive Islamic State (IS) militants from the northern city.

Iraqi troops on the Mosul-Erbil highway 
as part of the operation to drive IS militants from Mosul.

Iraqi troops on the Mosul-Erbil highway as part of the operation to drive IS militants from Mosul. Photo: AFP

Elite counter-terrorism service troops seized control of the state television building in Kukjali hours after launching an assault on the area.

Units of the army's ninth division are meanwhile said to be bearing down on south-eastern districts of the city.

About 50,000 Iraqi security forces personnel, Kurdish fighters, Sunni Arab tribesmen and Shia militiamen are involved in the two-week-old offensive to drive IS militants out of their last major urban stronghold in the country.

The counter-terrorism units retook Bazwaya, the last village before Mosul's eastern outskirts, in a dawn assault on Monday and on Tuesday were pushing into a residential area within the city limits.

However their attempt to establish a foothold inside Mosul, is facing much more resistance than in fighting over the past few days, a BBC journalist embedded with them says.

In an attempt to slow the advance, militants had set up concrete blast walls to block the main road into the Karama district, and also planted bombs along it, Maj Gen Sami al-Airdi of the CTS told Associated Press.

Later, as the state television building was retaken, CTS commander Lt Gen Abdul Wahhab al-Saidi said most of the Kokjali residential distruct had been cleared.

One resident of the nearby Quds district told Reuters news agency: "We can see [IS] fighters firing towards the Iraqi forces and moving in cars between the alleys of the neighbourhood."

Later, the Iraqi military's Joint Operations Command announced that units from the army's ninth armoured division and first division had entered the Judaydat al-Mufti district, to the south-east, after capturing several outlying villages.

As Mosul is encircled, UN officials have expressed concern for the safety of the 1.5 million civilians estimated to be living there.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Tuesday that it had received fresh reports of mass killings and forced relocations carried out by IS.

Militants were alleged to have killed 40 former soldiers from the Shura area south of Mosul and from villages surrounding the town of Hamam al-Alil, and then thrown their bodies into the River Tigris, spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said.

IS also brought dozens of lorries and mini-buses into Hamam al-Alil early on Monday in an attempt to forcibly transfer 25,000 to the city itself, she added.

Many of the vehicles were prevented from moving by coalition military operations in the area. But some did reach Abu Saif, just outside Mosul's international airport.

Separately on Tuesday, Turkey began deploying tanks and other vehicles to its border with Iraq, about 100km (62 miles) north-west of Mosul.

The Turkish government is concerned that the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which it regards as a terrorist group, will gain greater influence in northern Iraq.

It also says it wants to protect Iraq's Sunni Turkmen community from pro-government Shia paramilitary fighters moving towards Tal Afar, west of Mosul.


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