Posted on October 17, 2016 by Editorial Staff in Military, Mosul
Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces near the Badana Pichwk, Mosul, Oct. 17, 2016 Photo: The NY Times
[size=11]Peshmerga take 7 villages near Mosul[/size]
HEWLÊR-Erbil, Iraq’s Kurdistan region,— Kurdish Peshmerga forces on Monday morning began advancing on a string of villages east of Mosul, the start of a long-awaited campaign to reclaim Iraq’s second-largest city from the Islamic State, which seized it more than two years ago, officials said.
Iraq’s special forces say the Iraqi Kurdish troops, known as the peshmerga, are leading the first push on Mosul’s eastern front toward the city held by the Islamic State group.
Kurdish Peshmerga forces successfully captured seven villages near Mosul from IS on Monday, the first day of the Mosul offensive, as the US-led coalition warned that the operation will likely last “for weeks.”
Turkey’s state-run news agency says the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces have taken control of seven villages east of the city of Mosul and that they control the main road linking the city with the Iraqi Kurdish regional capital, Irbil, further to the east.
Helgurd Hikmet, a press officer in Iraqi Kurdistan capital of Erbil, as saying the seven villages that were taken from Islamic State control are: Tercele, Basahra, Little Bedene, Great Bedene, Kebervi, Baskelan and Sheikh Emir, the Anadolu Agency reported.
Lt. Col. Ali Hussein says his men are also anxious to move out to the front line as soon as possible but that he expects they will wait near the town of Khazer for another day or two. He spoke just hours after the long-awaited battle for Mosul began on Monday morning.
According to Hussein, an earlier political deal between the country’s Kurdish region and the central government in Baghdad has agreed that Kurdish forces would advance first and bring a cluster of villages — the home of Christian, Shabak and other minority groups — under their regional control.
Saud Masoud, also with the special forces, says that after the Kurdish troops “take the area that they want,” the special forces will then move to the new front and continue the push into Mosul.
A senior U.N. official says he’s “extremely concerned” for the safety of civilians in Mosul in the fight to retake the Iraqi city from Islamic State fighters.
Stephen O’Brien, the under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, said in a statement that “depending on the intensity and scope of the fighting, as many as 1 million people may be forced to flee their homes in a worst-case scenario.”
He says that families are at “extreme risk” of being caught in crossfire, tens of thousands may end up besieged or held as human shields and thousands could be forcibly expelled.
O’Brien urged all sides “to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and ensure they have access to the assistance they are entitled to and deserve.”
Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, says the U.S.-led coalition is providing wide support for the Iraqi and Kurdish forces in the battle for Mosul.
But he stressed, “to be clear, the thousands of ground combat forces who will liberate Mosul are all Iraqis.”
Townsend’s statement came shortly after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of operations on Monday to liberate the northern city of Mosul from Islamic State militants.
The U.S. commander pledged the coalition will continue to use “precision to accurately attack the enemy and to minimize any impact on innocent civilians.”
He says: “This may prove to be a long and tough battle, but the Iraqis have prepared for it and we will stand by them.”