Iraqi forces launch second phase of Mosul offensive against ISIL
NEAR MOSUL, IraqIraqi security forces on Dec. 29 began the second phase of their offensive against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants in Mosul, pushing from three directions into eastern districts where the battle has been deadlocked for nearly a month.
Since the offensive to capture Mosul began 10 weeks ago, counter-terrorism forces have retaken a quarter of the city, the jihadists’ last major stronghold in Iraq, but their advance has been slow and troops on other fronts have made little progress.
The campaign, the biggest ground operation in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein, entered its first significant pause earlier this month for a planned “operational refit.”
But on Dec. 29, more than 5,000 soldiers and militarized federal police troops who had redeployed from Mosul’s southern outskirts entered half a dozen southeastern neighborhoods, while counter-terrorism forces advanced in al-Quds and Karama districts after receiving reinforcements.
Army forces pushed simultaneously towards the northern city limits. U.S. military advisers were seen watching operations.
“At 7:00 a.m. this morning the three fronts began advancing towards the city center. The operation is ongoing today and tomorrow and until we liberate the eastern side of the city completely,” Lieutenant General Ali Freiji, who was overseeing army operations in the north, told Reuters.
The fall of Mosul would probably spell the end for ISIL’s ambition to rule over millions of people in a self-styled caliphate, but fighters could still mount a traditional insurgency in Iraq, and plot or inspire attacks on the West.
An officer from an elite Interior Ministry unit said on Dec. 29 it was advancing alongside federal police in Mosul’s Intisar district. ISIL resisted with sniper and machine gun fire, he said.
A plume of white smoke, likely to be from an air strike, rose from a southeastern district on the morning of Dec. 29, while at the northern front heavy gunfire was audible and a suicide car bomb was disabled by the Iraqi army before reaching its target.