Peshmerga forces capture key town near Mosul

Peshmerga forces have captured the town of Bashiqa, just seven kilometres away from Mosul as part of the offensive to reclaim the second largest city in Iraq.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters stand in an area near the town of Bashiqa, some 25 kilometres north east of Mosul, as smoke billows, October 20, 2016

Kurdish peshmerga fighters said they had taken the town of Bashiqa near Mosul from Daesh on Sunday as coalition forces pressed their offensive against the militia’s last stronghold in Iraq.

Peshmerga forces also captured a key road linking the northern Iraqi town of Bashiqa to the Daesh-held Mosul city.

“Our forces are now besieging the town from all sides after seizing control of the main road between Bashiqa and Mosul,” Peshmerga officer Shirzad Zajuli told Anadolu Agency.

“The Kurdish forces are now 7 kilometres away from Mosul districts,” he said.

The offensive to take Mosul, launched last week by Iraqi and Kurdish forces backed by a US-led coalition, is expected to become the biggest battle in the country since the US-led invasion in 2003.

Daesh captured Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in mid-2014 before overrunning large swathes of territory in the country’s northern and western regions.

An Iraqi force of about 30,000, joined by US special forces and under American, French and British air cover, is ready to push into Mosul after recapturing Falluja and Ramadi, west of Baghdad, and seizing the Sunni stronghold of Tikrit in central Iraq.

Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters fire a multiple rocket launcher from a position in Sheikh Ali village near the town of Bashiqa, outside Mosul, October 20, 2016

Daesh has staged attacks apparently aimed at distracting the advancing forces.

They hit the city of Kirkuk on Friday and on Sunday they attacked Rutba, a town 360 km west of Baghdad, where they killed at least seven policemen, according to a police source.

In an attempt to repel the offensive against Mosul, Daesh also set fire to a sulphur plant near the city.

Up to 1,000 people were treated in hospital after inhaling toxic fumes.

Coalition officials have said the offensive is going well, but that it will take a long time to recapture Mosul, which has a civilian population of 1.5 million.

Between 4,000 and 8,000 Daesh fighters have rigged the city with explosives, built oil-filled moats, dug tunnels, and trenches and are feared to be ready to use civilians as human shields.

TRTWorld and agencies