Turkish forces in Iraq have fired artillery on Daesh positions near the Bashiqa camp just outside of Mosul as international efforts to liberate the city intensify.
At least 17 Daesh terrorists were killed in the operation, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday. Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced that Turkey had leant artillery units to support Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces battle Daesh on the Mosul front.
"The Peshmerga have mobilised to cleanse the Bashiqa region from Daesh. They asked for help from our troops at the Bashiqa camp and we are supporting them with artillery, tanks and Firtina howitzers,” Yildirim told CNN Turk.
Four Turkish F-16 fighter jets are also said to involved in the operation to retake Mosul, despite the Iraqi government’s objections to Turkish participation.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al Abadi on Saturday rejected Turkey playing a role in the operations. Abadi previously warned that Turkish involvement could lead to a “regional war” for control of the oil-rich city.
But Turkey insists that it initially deployed troops last year to assist and train local Kurdish and Sunni Arab forces at the Bashiqa camp on the invitation of the Iraqi government.
While the central Iraqi government in Baghdad now opposes the Turkish presence, the Erbil-based autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) still welcomes Turkey’s help.
Peshmerga forces advance
On Sunday, Turkish-backed Peshmerga troops advanced towards Mosul. They are now just seven-kilometres away from the city, sources on the ground said.
Meanwhile, an Iraqi force of about 30,000 soldiers and allied Shia militias are pushing into Mosul under US, French and British air cover.
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.
Mosul, which has a civilian population of 1.5 million, remains the last Daesh stronghold in Iraq after government forces successfully secured the cities of Fallujah, Ramadi, Tikrit and the west of Baghdad.
Operations are currently focused on freeing villages around the city, but Daesh has staged attacks apparently aimed at distracting the advancing forces.
Daesh attacked the city of Kirkuk with suicide bombers on Friday and hit Rutba, a town 360 km west of Baghdad, on Sunday. In an attempt to repel the offensive on 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.
The terrorist group has also rigged the city with explosives, built oil-filled moats, dug tunnels and trenches and are reportedly preparing to use civilians as human shields.