Thursday, October 20, 2016

Battle for Mosul: ISIS commanders flee Mosul with their wives

ABNA,  Naweran near Mosul (Iraq)

Commanders of the ISIS terrorist group are fleeing the Iraqi city of Mosul amid the all-out offensive of Iraqi forces, local media said.

Mosul, some 400 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, was where top IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his "caliphate" two years ago but is now the group's last major stronghold in Iraq.

The launch of a major offensive to retake the country's second largest city from the extremist IS group was announced on Monday by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is also the commander-in-chief of the Iraqi forces.

"Today I declare the launch of the operation of liberating Nineveh province. The time of victory has come, and the moment of the great victory is approaching," Abadi said in a brief address aired on national TV channel Al Iraqiya.

The Iraqi army has retaken dozens of villages in Mosul, and are planning multiple attacks for Thursday.

"We are telling Daesh (ISIS) that their leaders are abandoning them. We've seen a movement out of Mosul," said Major General Gary Volesky, who heads the anti-IS coalition's land component.

While Iraqi security forces on Wednesday fought against the ISIS militants, the Kurdish Peshmerga forces repelled an ISIS attack on the northern town of Sinjar and killed 47 militants.

In the third day of the offensive, the troops fought sporadic clashes with ISIS militants in several areas in northeast and east of Mosul, while the Peshmerga forces shelled ISIS positions with artillery and mortar rounds near the towns of Bashiqa and Butilla in northeast of Mosul, a security source from the Operations Command of Nineveh Liberation said on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi army continued their clashes with ISIS militants at the edge of the town of Hamdaniyah, some 40 km southeast of Mosul, after repeated attempts to enter the town following the militants showed stiff resistance, the source said.

The troops destroyed the three suicide car bombs and killed up to 47 extremist militants after several hours of fierce clashes, Khansouri said, adding that three Peshmerga members sustained serious wounds and were evacuated to the town hospital.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Chaloka Beyani, on Wednesday warned that, in a worst-case scenario, 1 million people could be displaced as Iraqi forces launch a military campaign to retake Mosul from the ISIS.

He also said that as many as 700,000 people in Mosul could be in need of emergency shelters.

 Iraqi special forces join Mosul offensive against IS    

 Khazer, Oct 20 - Iraqi special forces charged into the Mosul battle today with a pre-dawn advance on a nearby town held by the Islamic State group, a key part of a multi-pronged assault on eastern approaches to the besieged city.

    The addition of the elite troops, also known as counterterrorism forces, marked a significant intensification of the fight for Iraq's second-largest city. As they advanced, attack helicopters fired on the militants and heavy gunfire echoed across the plains.

    Maj Gen. Maan al-Saadi said the elite Counterterrorism Forces advanced on the town of Bartella with the aid of US-led coalition airstrikes and heavy artillery on the fourth day of a massive operation to retake Iraq's second-largest city.

    "God willing, we will take this town today," he said.
    The special forces are expected to lead the way into Mosul, where they will face fierce resistance in an urban landscape where IS militants are preparing for a climactic battle.

    The offensive is the largest operation launched by Iraqi forces since the 2003 US-led invasion, and is expected to take weeks, if not months.
    The Kurdish forces known as peshmerga, who are also taking part in the offensive, announced a "large-scale operation" to the north and northeast of Mosul today.

    "The operation will be in three fronts," the peshmerga said in a statement, and follows recent gains by the peshmerga to the east of Mosul and Iraqi security forces to the south.
Peshmerga forces stationed on mountains northeast of Mosul descended from their positions and charged toward the front line.

    They used bulldozers and other heavy equipment to fill trenches and moved armored vehicles into the breach after about an hour of mortar and gunfire at IS positions below in the village of Barima.
    Military operations also appeared to be underway in the town of Bashiqa, northeast of Mosul. Thick smoke could be seen billowing from the town early today.

    A day earlier, Bashiqa was pounded by airstrikes and mortar fire from Kurdish peshmerga positions high above.
    The approaches to Mosul run through clusters of mostly abandoned villages where IS militants have planted roadside bombs and other booby traps. Bartella, a traditionally Christian town which fell to IS two years ago, is believed to be empty of civilians.

    "Our intelligence tells us the district is full of IEDs," al-Saadi said, referring to the homemade explosives IS has planted in huge numbers during past campaigns.

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