Iraqi troops enter Mosul for first time in two years
MOSULIraqi forces entered Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)-held Mosul on Nov. 3 for the first time in more than two years since the jihadists took control of the city and were battling ISIL militants on the front line, CNN International quoted Iraqi defense officials as saying.
Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Tahsin Ibrahim told CNN on Nov. 3 that units of the 9th Armored Division had entered the city on Nov. 3.
Penetrating the eastern border has been the most significant breakthrough in the offensive launched two weeks ago to free the key city from the militant group’s rule.
As the Iraqi forces advanced into the city, the commander of the Joint Military Operation Command, Lt. Gen. Talib Shaghati, told reporters Nov. 3 that more than 5,000 civilians have been evacuated from newly retaken eastern parts of the ISIL-held city and taken to camps.
Civilians have been fleeing Mosul’s Gogjali, al-Karama and al-Samah neighborhoods since Nov. 2, Shaghati said, according to The Associated Press.
Shaghati said avoiding civilian deaths and damage to infrastructure were among the main challenges faced by Iraqi troops during the operation to retake Mosul, which began on Oct. 17.
While Iraqi forces were making gains, the leader of ISIL released a new message urging his followers to keep up the fight for Mosul as they defend the city against the major offensive.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s rallying cry came in a sermon-like recording, more than 90 minutes long, distributed by the militant group’s al-Furqan media arm late on Nov. 2. It was not clear when the recording was produced. Al-Baghdadi’s whereabouts are unknown.
“This raging battle and total war, and the great jihad that the state of Islam is fighting today only increases our firm belief, God willing, and our conviction that all this is a prelude to victory,” al-Baghdadi said in an audio recording released online by supporters, AFP reported.
“Oh you who seek martyrdom! Start your actions! Turn the night of the disbelievers into day,” he says, according to a translation provided by the SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S. organization that monitors militant activity online, which reported the al-Baghdadi recording first.
“Totally decimate their territories, and make their blood flow like rivers,” al-Baghdadi also said.
Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council on Nov. 2 condemned the use of human shields in Iraq, saying all sides must avoid harming civilians in the battle to drive ISIL from Mosul.
The council met behind closed doors to hear reports from U.N. human rights and humanitarian aid officials on the situation in the country’s second city as Iraqi forces reached its eastern outskirts.
Reports of ISIL fighters taking civilians from their homes and rounding them up to serve as human shields alarmed council members, said Senegal’s deputy ambassador, Georgui Ciss, whose country holds the council presidency.
They “condemn the use of human shields and call on all parties to take all feasible precautions with a view to avoiding harm to civilians and civilian objects in accordance with international humanitarian law,” he said.
The council would “not like to see the spread of ISIL to neighboring Syria,” Ciss added.