Battle for Mosul: Several villages liberated by Peshmerga forces

Battle for Mosul: Several villages liberated by Peshmerga forces
4 min read
17 October, 2016
Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces have seized several villages east of Mosul in a much-anticipated US-backed offensive to liberate the final stronghold of the Islamic State group.
Peshmerga fighters seized several villages east of Mosul [Anadolu]

Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters seized several villages east of Mosul on Monday in an operation to retake the city from the Islamic State group.

"The operation in Khazir includes up to 4,000 Peshmerga in three fronts to clear nearby IS-occupied villages," the general command of the Peshmerga said in a statement.

It said the operation was coordinated with Iraqi federal forces moving from the south and had received extensive air support from the US-led coalition battling IS in Iraq and Syria.

Peshmerga commanders said the push was the third phase of an effort that started months ago to retake villages in the Nineveh plain that were captured by IS in 2014 and used to be inhabited by members of the Christian and Kakai minorities.

According to two Kurdish MPs, at least eight Peshmerga fighters were killed in Monday's operation, but it was not immediately clear exactly in what circumstances.

The first day of the offensive has also left 60 IS fighters dead, sources told The New Arab.

The group also lost nearly 60 percent of its rocket launchers and landmines around Mosul in coalition airstrikes and shelling, according to military sources from the Nineveh liberation operations room.

The latest offensive by the Peshmerga is part of a broader operation to retake Mosul announced by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi early on Monday.

"Today I declare the start of these victorious operations to free you from the violence and terrorism of Daesh," Abadi said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

The much-anticipated announcement comes more than two years after IS seized Iraq's second city.

Mosul is the extremist group's last major stronghold in Iraq and its recapture would shatter IS's claim that it is still running a "caliphate" straddling Iraq and Syria.

Paris meeting

France said on Monday that 13 defence ministers from the international US-led coalition, including US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, would meet in Paris on 25 October to assess progress in the battle to liberate Mosul.

"The aim is to take a look at the progress of the Mosul plan," an aide to French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

 

The ministers are also expected to stress the importance of the next step in the battle against IS – routing the militants from their Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.

The coalition is concerned that IS will attempt to move fighters and military equipment from Mosul to Syria as the offensive intensifies.

"We must prevent (fighters) based in Mosul from moving easily to Raqqa and we need to ensure that those who are currently able to roam around freely in Syria can be tracked down," the aide said.

Although the coalition includes around 60 countries, the meeting will only comprise Western nations providing air support.

They are: United States, France, Britain, Canada, Australia, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Norway, Denmark and New Zealand.

Mass displacement

The beginning of the assault also saw aid groups voice fears for the hundreds of thousands of civilians remaining in the city, with IS expected to use them as human shields.

A senior United Nations official on Monday quoted the Iraqi military as saying that large numbers of people may start fleeing fighting in the Mosul area in under a week.

"It's a trickle right now," Lise Grande, the UN's humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, told journalists, referring to displacement caused by the operation.

But "our expectation, based on what the military has briefed us, is that if we start to see significant population movements, it's likely to be within five to six days," Grande said.

"So as they're moving toward the city, there is not an expectation that we're going to have mass outflows. But the military has said that... we could see that within five to six days," she said.

According to Grande, 200,000 people being displaced "is a working scenario" for what might happen "in the first couple of weeks" – a number that may rise significantly as the operation goes on.

Agencies contributed to this report