IS targets Iraqi forces with car bombs, ambushes in Mosul

World Sunday 06/November/2016 20:34 PM
By: Times News Service
IS targets Iraqi forces with car bombs, ambushes in Mosul

Baghdad: IS fighters targeted Iraqi troops with car bombs and ambushes in Mosul, stalling an army advance in their north Iraq stronghold, on Sunday.
The militants have lost control of seven eastern districts of Mosul to Iraqi special forces who broke through their lines last Monday. Officials say the militants are now sheltering among civilians in those neighbourhoods and targeting soldiers in what one called the world's "toughest urban warfare".
Mosul, the largest IS-controlled city in either Iraq or Syria, has been held by the militants since they drove the army out of northern Iraq in June 2014.
The three-week Mosul campaign has brought together a force of around 100,000 soldiers, security forces, militias and Kurdish fighters, backed by a US-led coalition, to crush the militants.
IS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi has told his followers there can be no retreat in a "total war" with their enemies, and the militants in Mosul have been waging a fierce and brutal defence.
They have deployed waves of suicide car bombs, as well as mortar attacks, roadside bombs and sniper fire against the advancing troops, and officers say they have also left behind fighters among residents of districts taken over by the army.
"That's why we are carrying out the toughest urban warfare that any force in the world could undertake," said Sabah Al Numani, spokesman for Iraq's elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS).
"Sometimes they climb to the rooftops of houses where civilians are still living and they hold them hostage and open fire on our forces, because they know we will not use air strikes against targets that have civilians."
Militants also targeted the troops with car bombs, sometimes waving white flags as they approached, he said.
Major General Maan Al Sadi, a CTS commander, told state television IS fighters had launched more than 100 car bombs against his forces in the east, which is just one of several fronts in the Mosul offensive.
A top Kurdish security official said IS had also deployed drones strapped with explosives, and long-range artillery shells filled with chlorine and mustard gas.
It could resort to even more devastating weapons including a network of booby traps that can blow up whole neighbourhoods, Masrour Barzani, head of the Kurdistan Regional Government's Security Council, told Reuters.
Late on Friday, a CTS unit came under attack from the rear after advancing into east Mosul, said a colonel in the Ninth Armoured Division which is also taking part in operations there.
IS militants emerged from houses behind them and isolated the convoy, preventing reinforcements from reaching them. Surrounded and low on ammunition, they had to shelter in houses before they finally got out on Saturday.
The IS news agency Amaq released footage on Sunday of captured or destroyed military vehicles, including the burnt wreckage of a Humvee it said was taken in the eastern district of Aden. Fighters shouted slogans and unloaded ammunition and communications equipment.
Amaq also said IS was behind two bomb attacks on Sunday in Tikrit and Samarra, cities to the south of Mosul, which killed 21 people. Officials said the attacks, carried out by suicide bombers driving ambulances packed with explosives, targeted a checkpoint and a car park for pilgrims.
While the army and special forces have been pushing into Mosul from the east, Kurdish peshmerga fighters are holding territory to the northeast, and mainly militias have sought to seal off the desert routes to Syria to the west.
Security forces have also advanced from the south, entering the last town before Mosul on Saturday and reaching within 4 km (2.5 miles) of Mosul airport on the city's southwest edge, a senior commander said.
The United Nations has warned of a possible exodus of hundreds of thousands of refugees from a city which is still home to up to 1.5 million people. So far 34,000 have been displaced, the International Organization for Migration said.
Many of those still in Mosul feel trapped, including those in districts which the army says it has entered.
"We still can't go out of our houses.... mortars are falling continuously on the quarter," a resident of the Quds neighbourhood on the eastern edge of the city told Reuters by telephone.
Although there was no fighting in his own district, for the first time in five days, he said he could hear clashes in the two neighbourhoods immediately to the north and south.
In the northern Malayeen district a witness said IS fighters had set fire to a collection of mobile homes, once used by Iraqi security forces, apparently to create a smokescreen against air strikes.
"I can see flames rising up, near the main street," he said. "Daesh (IS) don't let the fire engines get to the fire to extinguish it".
Several witnesses, on both sides of the Tigris River which splits Mosul's eastern and western halves, said they heard bursts of celebratory gunfire after the militants claimed falsely they had made sweeping counter-attacks against the army.
"We heard a voice from the mosque - outside prayer time - of a man shouting slogans ...brave fighters have regained control of Bartella and Qayyara," said one resident, referring to two forward bases used by Iraqi forces.
"We know they are lying," he said. "The truth is hidden from no one."