Iraqi and Kurdish forces backed by the US-led coalition are facing stiff resistance from Islamic State jihadists as the first forays into Mosul city begin.
The government forces, which had until now cleared villages and towns surrounding the city of 1.7 million people, have entered urban areas from the East and have taken control of the state TV building, reports say.
Fighters belonging to Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS, are using vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, roadside bombs, mortar fire, and snipers to counter the advance of Iraqi and Kurdish forces but have failed to slow down the momentum.
“There’s no question that counter-ISIL forces continue to have the momentum in this fight,” Pentagon spokesman, Peter Cook, said at yesterday’s press briefing in response to questions about difficulties faced by the coalition forces. “The campaign is on track and moving forward according to plan,” Cook added.
The offensive to liberate the city from ISIS may cost many non-combatant lives as ISIS refuses to allow safe passage to civilians. Coalition forces will continue to advance with an “eye toward protecting the innocent lives ISIL is putting at risk in the course of this fight,” Cook said.
“The progress we have made to date is a testament to the bravery and dedication of the Iraqi soldiers, the Peshmerga fighters, the federal police and the others on the front lines,” he said. The Kurdish and Iraqi forces are also approaching the city from the south and the north and are within 1 KM of the city in both directions.
Since the beginning of the offensive on October 17, the coalition has assisted local forces with 2700 air and artillery strikes and continue to transport supplies to the front lines and help with medical evacuations.
ISIS captured the largely Sunni Arab-populated city of Mosul in June 2014. The increasingly sectarian Shia-led Iraqi army fled in the face of lightning strike, abandoning a vast arsenal of US-supplied arms to jihadists who later declared a so-called Islamic caliphate in the city.
While Mosul is under pressure, the international coalition is preparing to open another front in Syria. Local anti-ISIS forces, consisting mostly of Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces are preparing to launch an assault on the capital city of ISIS, Raqqa.