World Bulletin / News Desk
Iraqi forces have "liberated" 352 square kilometers of territory south of Mosul since a wide-ranging military operation began earlier this week to recapture the city from the ISIL terrorist group, an Iraqi police commander said Wednesday.
Iraqi forces, backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, launched a much-anticipated offensive late Sunday to retake Mosul -- ISIL’s last stronghold in northern Iraq, which was overrun by the terrorist group in mid-2014.
"Iraqi forces have managed to clear 352 square kilometers [of ISIL elements] since the operation began," Federal Police Commander Lieutenant-General Raed Shakir said in statements cited by the Interior Ministry.
No further details were given by the commander regarding which particular areas had been cleared of ISIL elements.
According to Amin al-Zubaidi, a first lieutenant in the army’s Nineveh Joint Operations Command, 13 ISIL militants were killed in Mosul on Wednesday -- including a prominent group leader -- in a drone strike carried out by U.S.-led coalition aircraft.
"Intelligence provided by our sources inside Mosul indicates that Abu Sarah, a ISIL leader in charge of military planning, was killed -- along with a number of other militants -- in a coalition drone strike," al-Zubaidi told Anadolu Agency.
The strike, he added, had occurred Wednesday morning in Mosul’s Dawasa area on the bank of the Tigris River, which runs through the city.
Commenting on the operation’s progress on the ground, al-Zubaidi said Iraqi forces were encountering numerous obstacles as they advanced on the city.
"Explosive devices and booby traps planted by ISIL are impeding the progress of our armed forces," he said.
In a related development, at least 200 civilians in Mosul are now being held hostage by ISIL militants, a local official said Wednesday.
"Fifteen ISIL militants were killed after being attacked by local residents in Mosul’s southern Haman al-Alil district," Mosul-based Kurdish politician Said Memozini told Anadolu Agency.
"The terrorist group later reinforced its presence in the area and rounded up about 200 civilians suspected of having taken part in the uprising," he added.
Also on Wednesday, Mohamed Merid, a Shia militia commander, told Anadolu Agency that ISIL militants had executed eight civilians in the village of Houd south of Mosul before staging a withdrawal from the area.
"We found the bodies of another six executed civilians lying on the road linking Houd to the villages of Qayyarah and Hammam al-Alil," Merid said.
"We suspect ISIL may have taken a number of local residents with them to use as human shields," he added.
Iraqi Army Commander Mohamed Jabouri, for his part, said ISIL militants had recently brought about 100 residents of outlying areas into Mosul to use as human shields against ongoing coalition airstrikes.
In Washington, the White House acknowledged humanitarian concerns as the offensive continues, but said that the “potential for certain humanitarian contingencies should not be used as an excuse to put off undertaking this operation.”
“The citizens of Mosul are already at grave risk,” spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters. “What we should do and what the international community has done, as the president acknowledged yesterday, is to plan for those potential contingencies.”
U.S. President Barack Obama said yesterday that humanitarian concerns for innocent civilians in Iraq’s second city are a “a top priority” for his administration.
U.S. howitzers, meanwhile, have reportedly begun shelling the ISIL-held town of Bashiqa, located roughly 10 kilometers east of Camp Bashiqa, where Turkish-trained "Guards of Nineveh" forces are waiting to stage their own advance on Mosul.
The Turkish air force is also now reportedly gearing up to target ISIL positions near Mosul after reaching agreement with the U.S.-led coalition regarding the parameters of the operation.
And in the Sinjar district (located some 120 kilometers west of Mosul), Peshmerga forces -- with air support from the U.S.-led coalition -- repelled an attack by ISIL militants, according to a Peshmerga source.
"Peshmerga forces deployed along the Sinjar axis foiled an attack by ISIL launched from the direction Sinjar’s grain-storage facility," Peshmerga officer Sherzad Zakholi told Anadolu Agency, without providing a death toll.
Iraqi Defense Ministry official Salman Jawad, for his part, told Anadolu Agency that high-ranking Iraqi army commanders and "experts" from the U.S.-led coalition were holding regular strategy meetings in the Makhmur district south of Mosul to discuss the ongoing operation.
In mid-2014, ISIL captured Mosul -- Iraq’s second-largest city -- before overrunning large swathes of territory in the country’s northern and western regions.
Recent months have seen the Iraqi army, backed by local allies on the ground and a U.S.-led air coalition, retake much territory. Nevertheless, the terrorist group remains in control of several parts of the country, including Mosul.
In recent weeks, the army and its allies have staged a gradual advance on the city, which officials in Baghdad have vowed to recapture by year’s end.
Last Mod: 20 Ekim 2016, 07:34