US-backed Iraqi troops gain more ground in Mosul despite ISIS resistance

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Iraqi army forces. File photo

ARA News

Duhok – Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Units on Saturday captured two new districts in the war-ravaged city of Mosul in Iraq’s northwestern Nineveh Governorate.

“Counter-Terrorism Units liberated the districts of al-Murur and Qadissiyah al-Oula in Mosul,” the Iraqi Army General Command said in an official statement.

“ISIS suffered heavy losses under heavy bombardment by our forces on Saturday,” it added.

Also on Saturday, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) seized control of three neighborhoods in the eastern part of Mosul city after fierce clashes with ISIS fighters.

“The ISF have secured the neighborhoods of al-Adil, Taamim and al-Eylam,” the Iraqi General Command said.

Although the Islamic State’s (ISIS) militants have shown heavy resistance in defense of Mosul, the Iraqi forces have been able to continue their progress in the operation.

Mosul is the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Iraq. The group took over the city in June 2014, and immediately afterward announced its self-proclaimed Caliphate.

On October 17, the Iraqi Army and Kurdish Peshmerga launched a major operation to liberate Mosul city and its surroundings. According to military sources, more than 2,200 ISIS militants have been killed in the operation so far.

Supported by the US-led coalition, the Iraqi forces have so far captured some 28 neighborhoods in the war-torn city since the launch of Mosul operation, forcing the Islamic State back towards the downtown core.

Informed sources inside Mosul told ARA News that the Iraqi forces currently control approximately 50% of Mosul city, beside tightening the siege on the ISIS-held downtown districts.

Human Shields

Haidar al-Khalidi, a journalist inside Mosul, told ARA News that ISIS is impeding the army’s advance by using civilians as human shields. This tactic has “prevented the army from using its heavy weapons during the clashes.”

“ISIS is using residential buildings as bases for its attacks on the Iraqi forces. Many civilians are located in Mosul’s ISIS-held districts. [They’re] being used as human shields,” al-Khalidi reported.

According to Michael Stephens, the head of the Royal United Services Institute–Qatar, there are a few reasons, mostly tactical decisions taken early on in the campaign, which have led to too many civilians being present in areas of heavy fighting. This has severely limited the ability of the Iraqi forces to use artillery and call in air power.

Resistance

“Additionally, ISIS militants are well dug in, moving in amongst houses and launching traps and huge numbers of suicide bombers to slow down the advance. To date, ISIS has utilized some 600 suicide bombers to defend Mosul which gives them tactical advantage in small enclosed areas,” Stephens told ARA News.

“There is little doubt that the fight ISIS has put up is more than was expected. The problem is made worse by the lack of available forces that can successfully close the noose around Mosul and get ISIS to divert resources away from defending the eastern side of the city,” he said.

“As such, it’s placing undue pressure on those units operating in the eastern neighbourhoods of Mosul, hugely slowing down the advance,” he added.

Nicholas Heras, a Washington-based Middle East researcher at the Centre for a New American Security, agreed with Stephens. “ISIS fighters are providing far greater resistance inside the city than the Coalition expected,” Heras told ARA News.

“The Coalition, Baghdad, and the KRG [Kurdistan Regional Government] will also be very cautious with the campaign plan to take the more densely populated districts of Mosul, fearing an even greater outflow of refugees from the city,” he said.

“With winter approaching, the humanitarian pressure on the KRG and other areas of Nineveh and further into Iraq could be catastrophic,” Heras concluded.

Reporting by: Eyaz Ciziri and Sadrudding Kino | Source: ARA News

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