The battle to take back the key Iraqi city of Mosul from ISIS occupiers entered its seventh day on Sunday, as Kurdish Peshmerga forces pushed to within five miles of the city’s border, readying to begin the operation to liberate the city in earnest, according to a CNN report.
The battle for Mosul is expected to be a drawn-out and bloody affair, with close-range street fighting and house-to-house raids as the combined Iraqi-Kurdish force of about 100,000 troops tries to root to the remaining ISIS fighters still in the city.
At the same time, ISIS has launched a series of diversionary attacks, attempting to splinter the coalition forces, including attacks on the northern city of Kirkut on Sunday — the second there in three days — and in the western province of Al Anbar.ISIS militants have also been reportedly executing civilians by the dozens as the fighters flee the advancing troops.
After launching a diversionary attack on the city of Kirkut on Friday, ISIS on Sunday said that it had undertaken attacks in Iraq’s western Al Anbar Province, claiming to have seized the desert town of Rutbah — which Iraqi forces had retaken from ISIS just in May of this year.
The new ISIS attacks, apparently designed to divert Iraqi military resources from the operation in the north to reclaim the ISIS-controlled city of Mosul, were reported by the Kurdish news agency Rudaw early on Sunday. No further details were available. Lying about 240 miles west of Baghdad, Rutbah is located directly in the path of transit routes from Iraq into Jordan and Syria, giving the small town military and economic importance far beyond its size.
Later on Sunday, the ISIS-linked Amaq News Agency claimed that ISIS suicide bombers had hit Iraqi troops in downtown Karabilah, am Anbar Province town near the Syrian border.
About 100 United States troops, categorized as “advisors” as well as “air controllers” were marching with the combined Iraqi and Kurdish offensive force, according to Pentagon spokesperson and Navy Captain Jeff Davis.
But Davis added that the U.S. soldiers were “always behind the forward line of troops.”
At the same time, Iraqi government forces pushed closer to Mosul, moving into the largely abandoned town of Qaraqosh just 20 miles outside of the city. But their progress was slowed by ISIS land mines planted around the town by the terrorists.
On Thursday, Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said that the operation to drive ISIS from the second-largest city in the country was progressing faster than military planners had anticipated.
“The fighting forces are currently pushing forward toward the town more quickly than we thought and more quickly, certainly, than we had established in our planned campaign,” Abadi said Thursday morning. “Our road forward is a long one, and we need to continue to work to destroy terrorism and out and end to this kind of destruction.”
Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga troops are staging a two-pronged attack on the outskirts of Mosul, moving in from both the northeast and the east of the city, according to a report by the Al-Jazeera network.
An Al-Jazeera correspondent reported heavy artillery and gunfire near the eastern Bartella region, with ISIS also attempting to fight back with at least one new suicide car bomb attack — but that attack was thwarted.
The reclusive ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, along with one of the terror group’s top bomb creators, Fawzi Ali Nouimeh, are believed to be hiding somewhere in Mosul, according to what Kurdish official Hoshiyar Zebari called “solid” intelligence information, the news agency Reuters reported.
Earlier, ISIS fighters staged at least two suicide bombings as the combined Iraqi and Kurdish forces reportedly captured 20 villages on their approach to Iraq’s second-largest city, which has been a stronghold for ISIS since the militant group that calls itself the Islamic State overran Mosul in June of 2014.
The battle was not expected to end quickly, and could drag on for months, military experts believe. One Kurdish general estimated that the operation would take at least two months. Live streaming coverage from the Kurdistan 24 News network network can be viewed above. If the video is no longer live, it will be replaced with a new live stream as soon as one becomes available.
Earlier, what was described as an ISIS suicide bomb attack against Kurdish Peshmerga forces was captured on video.
Another video, from the Arab media outlet Al-Masdar News showed the Kurdish troops coming under heavy fire from ISIS, as they marched toward Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq — a city whose population was once approximately 2 million. But that populace may have been cut in half over the last two years of ISIS occupation and conflict.
The attacking ground army consists of about 30,000 troops, but the Iraqi and Kurdish force is heavily backed by a United States-lef coalition of more than 60 countries.
The Mosul operation is said to be the most important test so far of U.S. President Barack Obama’s strategy to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syrai without the use of American ground forces.
“I think the president would be the first to acknowledge that this is a significant test,” White House Spokesperson Josh Earnest said this week, of the attack on ISIS forces in Mosul. “Dislodging them from the city would be a significant strategic gain.”
However, while the U.S.-led coalition is confined largely to providing air support for the attack on Mosul — with Turkish warplanes most recently joining the sustained aerial pounding of ISIS positions around the city, according to CNN — U.S. military authorities say they expect American troops to be placed “in harm’s way” as the battle presses forward.
“There are Americans in harm’s way as part of this fight. They’re in a support role,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook, according to the Military.com news site. “It’s fair to say there are Americans on the outskirts of the city.”
The Americans are advancing alongside the Iraqi-Kurdish troops in an “advisory” capacity, Cook said.
While the battle is designed to uproot ISIS for its final stronghold inside Iraq, which would be a significant defeat for the terror group, the fighting is also expected to set off a massive humanitarian crisis, with the International Red Cross saying it is preparing to assist 270,000 refugees from the fighting.
World leaders and humanitarian groups also fear chaos in the aftermath of the Mosul assault, as even U.S. officials acknowledge that there is no specific plan for how to govern the city and its surrounding region in northern Iraq once ISIS is defeated there.
According to the CNN report on Tuesday, ISIS fighters — who are believed to be outnumbered 10 to one by the government and Peshmerga troops — have staged resistance mainly with small-arms mortar fire, as well as Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and suicide attacks. One Iraqi soldier was killed Tuesday fighting off an attempted suicide car bomb attack by ISIS militants.
Read more about the Battle of Mosul in Spanish at AhoraMismo.com: