Iraq Forces Press Mosul Assault, Hunt Kirkuk Attackers

iraq-24-oct-16

Iraqi forces battled on Sunday through booby-traps, sniper fire and suicide car bombs to tighten the noose around Mosul, while also hunting Daesh group jihadists behind attacks elsewhere in the country.

Kurdish forces announced a new push at dawn on Bashiqa, northeast of Mosul, where some 10,000 fighters are engaged in a huge assault to take the Daesh-held town.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the peshmerga had requested and received Turkish military assistance.

“They (Peshmerga) asked for help from our soldiers at Bashiqa base. We are providing support with artillery, tanks and howitzers,” Yildirim told reporters in western Turkey on Sunday.

Ankara’s claim came a day after Baghdad turned down a suggestion by visiting US Defense chief Ashton Carter — who met Kurdish leader Massud Barzani on Sunday — that Turkey be given a part in the battle.

Launched last Monday, the assault aims to reclaim the last major Iraqi city under IS control, dealing another setback to the jihadists’ self-declared “caliphate” in Iraq and neighboring Syria.

Carter said on Sunday that the idea of simultaneous operations against Mosul and Raqa in Syria “has been part of our planning for quite a while”.

He also said destroying Daesh’s external operations capabilities was “our highest priority”.

The jihadists on Friday staged a surprise assault on Iraq’s Kurdish-controlled city of Kirkuk, and two days later security forces were still tracking down IS fighters there.

The dozens of attackers, including several suicide bombers, failed to seize key government buildings but sowed chaos in the large oil-rich and ethnically mixed city.

At least 51 of the jihadists have been killed, including three more on Sunday, local security officials said.

At least 46 people, most of them in the security forces, were also killed in the raid and ensuing clashes, which had almost completely ceased by late Sunday.

Life was returning to normal in some parts of Kirkuk, but security forces in southern neighborhoods were still hunting for several gunmen.

Daesh also attacked Rutba, a remote town near the Jordanian border in the western province of Anbar, with five suicide car bombs, the area’s top army commander said on Sunday.

The attackers briefly seized the mayor’s office but security forces quickly regained the upper hand, he said.

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