Iraqi army takes control of main roads out of Mosul, trapping Daesh
by Compiled from Wire Services
ISTANBULMar 02, 2017 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Compiled from Wire Services
Mar 02, 2017 12:00 am
U.S.-backed Iraqi army units took control of the last major road out of western Mosul that had been in Daesh's hands, trapping the militants in a shrinking area within the city, a general and residents said.
The army's 9th Armored Division was within a kilometer of Mosul's Syria Gate, the city's northwestern entrance, a general from the unit told Reuters by telephone. "We effectively control the road, it is in our sight," he said.
Mosul residents said they had not been able to travel on the highway that starts at the Syria Gate since Tuesday. The road links Mosul to Tal Afar, another Islamic State stronghold 60 km (40 miles) to the west, and then to Syria.
If the Iraqi forces defeat Daesh in Mosul, that would crush the Iraq wing of the caliphate declared by the group's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2014 from the city's grand old Nuri Mosque.
The U.S.-led coalition effort against Daesh is killing the group's fighters more quickly than it can replace them, British Major General Rupert Jones, deputy commander for the Combined Joint Task Force said. With more than 45,000 killed by coalition air strikes up to August last year, "their destruction just becomes really a matter of time," he said on Tuesday in London.
The closing of the westward highway meant that Daesh are besieged in the city center, said Lt General Abdul Wahab al-Saidi, the deputy commander of the Counter Terrorism Service (CTS), deployed in the southwestern side. Units from the elite U.S.-trained division battled incoming sniper and anti-tank fire as they moved eastwards, through Wadi al-Hajar district, and northward, through al-Mansour and al-Shuhada districts where gunfire and explosions could be heard. These moves would allow the CTS to link up with Rapid Response and Federal Police units deployed by the riverside, and to link up with the 9th Armored Division coming from the west, tightening the noose around the militants.
"Many of them were killed, and for those who are still positioned in the residential neighborhoods, they either pull back or get killed are our forces move forward," Saidi said.
Western Mosul contains the old city center, with its ancient souks, the Grand Mosque and most government administrative buildings. It was from the pulpit of the Grand Mosque that Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a self-styled "caliphate" over parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014. The city, Iraq's second biggest, is the largest urban center captured by Daesh in both countries and its de facto capital in Iraq. Raqqa is its capital in Syria. Daesh was thought to have up to 6,000 militants in Mosul when th
e government's offensive started in mid-October. Of those, more than 1,000 have been killed, according to Iraqi estimates. The westward road that links the city to Syria was cut in November by the Shiite paramilitary known as the Hashd al-Shaabi. The militants are in charge of the road that links Mosul to Tal Afar, a town they control 60 km (40 miles) to the west.