Iraqi troops battle Islamic State for last town south of Mosul
Iraqi troops advancing towards Mosul battled on Saturday for the last town left between them and the Islamic State stronghold to the north, which is already under assault from special forces fighting inside the city's eastern districts, Reuters reported.
Saturday's attack on Hammam al-Alil, about 15 km (10 miles) south of Mosul, targeted a force of at least 70 Islamic State fighters in the Tigris river town, commander of the Mosul operations Major-General Najm al-Jabouri said.
Jabouri said the assault began around 10 a.m. (0700 GMT) and some militants had tried to escape across the river, although others put up heavy resistance and the troops had thwarted three attempted suicide car bombings.
"(The battle) is very important - it's the last town for us before Mosul," Jabouri told reporters. Iraqi helicopters were supporting the army, he said, backed also by jets from a U.S.-led air coalition which had been hitting Islamic State targets in the town for several days.
A military statement said security forces had raised the Iraqi flag over a government building in the town, but did not say whether it was fully under their control.
The operation to regain control over Mosul began in the morning of Oct. 17. In addition to Iraq’s government forces, local Peshmerga paramilitaries participate in the operation.
The operation is supported by international anti-terrorism coalition air force.
Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq with a population of 1.3 million people, has been under the IS control for more than two years.
Mosul was surrendered almost without a fight during the extremists’ attack in June 2014.
The “Islamic State” considers Mosul as its main stronghold in Iraq.