Peshmerga forces seize Bashiqa town from ISIL
REUTERS photoIraqi Kurdish forces have seized the town of Bashiqa near Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as part of the operation to liberate Mosul from jihadists, an official said Nov. 8.
Bashiqa was now under the “complete control” of Kurdish peshmerga forces, Jabbar Yawar, the secretary-general of the Kurdish regional ministry responsible for the fighters, told AFP.
“Our forces are clearing mines and sweeping the city,” Yawar said.
Capturing Bashiqa was one of the final steps in securing the eastern approaches to Mosul.
Iraqi forces have been tightening the noose around Mosul since launching an offensive on Oct. 17, with elite troops last week breaching city limits.
Upping pressure on the jihadists, the Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance on Nov. 6 launched its own offensive on ISIL’s other main bastion, the Syrian city of Raqqa.
Raqqa and Mosul are the last major cities in Syria and Iraq under the jihadists’ control and their capture would deal a knockout blow to the self-styled “caliphate” ISIL declared in mid-2014. More than a million people are believed to be in Mosul.
Iraqi forces scored another victory against ISIL on Nov. 7 by establishing full control over Hamam al-Alil, about 15 kilometers from the edge of Mosul and the last town of note on the way to the city from the south.
Iraqi forces said they found a mass grave at an agricultural college in the Hamam al-Alil area, with the offensive’s Joint Operations Command saying “100 bodies of citizens with their heads cut off” had been uncovered.
An AFP journalist at the scene saw body parts and bones mixed with trash at the grave site in the desert west of the town.
But it was not possible to determine the exact number of victims.
US using Apache helicopters in Mosul
Meanwhile, Pentagon spokesperson Peter Cook said the U.S. was using Apache helicopters in the battle to retake Mosul.
The U.S. military, backing the ground campaign by Iraqi forces, is directing the attack helicopters against explosives-packed vehicles the jihadist group is employing for suicide bombings, Cook said Nov. 7.
The helicopters are being used “with significant effect” in Mosul, he said.
“We anticipate that this nimble and precise capability will continue to enable Iraqi progress in what we expect will be tough fighting to come,” Cook added.
However, few helicopters are being used, with officials suggesting that the number of choppers is in the single digits.