Iraqi forces face strong ISIL resistance in Mosul
MOSULJihadist fighters unleashed a deluge of bombs and gunfire on Nov. 4 on Iraqi forces, which said it had taken six neighborhoods while punching into the streets of Mosul for the first time, forcing some units into a partial pullback.
Some armored vehicles from the elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) returned from the streets of Karama a few hours after moving in and encountering fierce resistance from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an AFP correspondent reported.
“We weren’t expecting such resistance. They had blocked all the roads,” said one officer, as top brass considered whether or not to attempt a fresh foray into the northern Iraqi city.
“There are large numbers of jihadists... It was preferable to pull back and devise a new plan,” the CTS officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Some CTS forces remained inside the city, however, and there were at least five regiments involved in the operation launched Nov. 4, making it hard to gauge the extent of the pullback.
After daybreak, bulldozers and tanks backed by air strikes had pushed into the streets of Mosul from the east for the first time since Iraqi forces launched a broad offensive to retake the city on Oct. 17.
The CTS’s “Mosul regiment,” which was the last to leave the city when the jihadists overran it in June 2014, immediately faced “tough resistance,” Commander Muntadhar Salem told AFP.
Air strikes by the U.S.-led coalition had intensified over the past two days, despite the smoke from burning tires set on fire by ISIL in a bid to provide cover.
Earlier in the day, a military statement said Iraqi special forces recaptured six districts of eastern Mosul on Nov. 4.
CTS special forces took over the neighborhoods of Malayeen, Samah, Khadra, Karkukli, Quds and Karama, the statement said, inflicting heavy losses on the militant fighters and raising the Iraqi flag over buildings. One Mosul resident, speaking to Reuters by phone, said, as of midday Nov. 4, he could still hear the sound of fighting coming from one of those districts.
The territory taken by the government still amounts to just a fraction of the sprawling city, which is divided into dozens of residential and industrial districts and held 2 million people before it was captured by ISIL in 2014.
An estimated 3,000 to 5,000 ISIL fighters are scattered across the city.
There has been an exodus of civilians from outlying villages this week but few managed to find a safe way out of the city itself. Civilians on Nov. 4 left the areas on the outskirts of Mosul by holding white flags.
The U.N. human rights office in Geneva said Nov. 4 that it has new reports from Iraq that ISIL has been carrying out mass killings in Mosul.
Spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said the rights office had received reports of an incident that happened on Oct. 31 when ISIL allegedly killed 50 of its own militants at the Ghazlani military base in Mosul “for alleged desertion.”
Shamdasani told reporters that her office also had reports indicating that four women were killed and 17 other civilians wounded in air strikes on Nov. 2 in the Quds neighborhood of eastern Mosul.