#MosulOp: Iraqi forces make gains while IEDs hamper Kurds

#MosulOp: Iraqi forces make gains while IEDs hamper Kurds
3 min read
21 October, 2016
Iraqi Security Forces continued their push towards Mosul with extensive progress on Thursday, whilst Kurdish forces faltered in the east amid high casualties and IED's, Gareth Browne reports.
Kurdish forces are determined despite their casualties [Gareth Browne]

Iraqi Security Forces continued their push towards Mosul with extensive progress on Thursday, whilst Kurdish forces faltered in the east amid high casualties and IED's.

Kurdish forces were on edge, following a spate of car bombings over the past four days.

Such was the fear that when an injured fighter returned, tossed in the back of a pick up truck with an unknown bag, fears that it could be an IED sent hundreds of Peshmerga and onlooking journalists ducking for cover.

After launching their operation to liberate the town of Bashiqa early on Thursday morning, Kurdish forces were hit by intense resistance from Islamic State fighters within the city.

An ambush, once Kurdish forces were eventually able to enter the city just before mid-day added greatly to the casualty rate, with at least 12 dead and more than 50 injured, though this is likely to rise.

The forces advanced rapidly from Bashiqa frontlines to the outskirts of the village of Tish Kareem following a 6 am start, but were hit with heavy mortar and machine gun fire upon nearing the village.

Kurdish fighters came under heavy fire as they attempted to retake Bashiqa [Gareth Browne]
Islamic State fighters have also used IEDs and numerous suicide bombers [Gareth Browne]

After entering the village, Peshmerga forces were then ambushed in a suspected TNT attack, with multiple deaths reported. 

The attack was supported by more than a dozen coalition airstrikes, and was carried out by more than 1000 Peshmerga, with western special forces playing a supporting role.

Kurdish forces are expected to push towards the town of Bashiqa in the coming days, once the town is fully surround.

However, Iraq's US-trained special forces - "The Golden Division", made significant advances, capturing the formerly Christian town of Bartella.

The town sits just 12 miles from Mosul, and was taken despite nine suicide bombings. It sits along the main highway between the cities of Mosul and Erbil.

Elsewhere, a US special forces serviceman was killed by an IED in the north of the country, though few further details have been released.

Kurdish fighters are raring to launch the final assualt on Bashiqa [Gareth Browne]
Victory against the Islamic State seems on the horizion [Gareth Browne]

The comings days should see Kurdish force push to capture Bashiqa, whilst Iraqi forces are likely to push to the large town of Qaraqosh. 

Both will present new challenges, with urban warfare expected on an unprecedented scale, and the rampant use of booby traps by IS also expected.

Kurdish forces have held the Bashiqa frontline for many months, and have been itching to attack it.

But a deal with the Iraqi government prevented them from doing so until plans for a complete liberation of Mosul was in place.

Such was the anticipation, on the eve of the attack, one Sunni Peshmerga told me "now I know how you [Christians] feel on Christmas eve". 

Once again, IS militants have surprised many by committing so many resources to relatively insignificant villages.

Though it remains to be seen whether or not Thursday's events will be anything but a blip in momentum for the coalition's offensive.

Gareth Browne is reporting from Bashiqa on the front lines of the fight against the Islamic State group, just outside Mosul. Follow him on Twitter: @BrowneGareth