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Iraqi Forces Battle Islamic State on Mosul Streets

Elite Iraqi troops battled the Islamic State group in the streets of Mosul today as US-backed forces in Syria pressed an advance on jihadist bastion Raqa after a sandstorm eased.

Updated:November 11, 2016, 10:43 PM IST
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Iraqi Forces Battle Islamic State on Mosul Streets
A tank of Iraqi security forces is seen during a battle with Islamic State militants in Ali Rash, southeast of Mosul, Iraq November 5, 2016. (Photo: Reuters/Thaier Al-Sudaini)
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Mosul: Elite Iraqi troops battled the Islamic State group in the streets of Mosul on Friday as US-backed forces in Syria pressed an advance on jihadist bastion Raqa after a sandstorm eased.

The high winds in the desert which separates the Syrian Kurdish-Arab militia alliance from the jihadists' stronghold in the Euphrates Valley had slowed their advance yesterday as visibility levels plummeted.

Iraqi forces too had regrouped after meeting stronger than expected resistance from IS fighters on the east bank of the Tigris River which runs through Mosul after thrusting into the built-up area last week.

The jihadists had been expected to pull back to the west bank, a stronghold of Sunni Arab insurgency even before IS swept through the minority community's heartland north and west of Baghdad in mid-2014.

Commanders of Iraq's elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) said that troops were advancing on two eastern neighbourhoods of the city.

The battle to retake Mosul is now in its fourth week, and while troops have entered the built-up area, there are weeks, if not months, of fighting still to go.

"Our forces have begun the attack on Arbajiyah. The clashes are ongoing," Staff Lieutenant Colonel Muntadhar Salem said, referring to an area in the east of the city.

The latest fighting came "after a few days of quiet," he said.

Another CTS officer, Lieutenant Colonel Ali Hussein Fadhel, said that the first row of buildings in Arbajiyah had been seized.

"We are within firing range of Karkukli but the full attack has not yet started," he said, referring to another eastern neighbourhood. In a makeshift command post in a two-storey house, a CTS soldier used an iPad to control a reconnaissance drone on the lookout for jihadist suicide bombers.

Iraqi forces launched the operation to retake Mosul on October 17, with federal and Kurdish regional forces closing in on the city from three sides.

Pro-government Shiite paramilitaries later began an advance on the town of Tal Afar, which commands the city's western approaches, with the goal of cutting the jihadists off from territory they control in neighbouring Syria.

The advance up the Tigris Valley from the south has been slowest. The troops on that front had the farthest to cover, with a string of jihadist-held towns in their path.

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