Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Iraqi Advance on Mosul Slows after Day

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Iraqi Advance on Mosul Slows after Day

Article excerpt

GWER, Iraq - The pace of operations slowed Tuesday in the fight to retake Mosul from the Islamic State group, as Iraqi forces advancing to the east and south of the city began pushing toward larger villages and encountering civilian populations.

Iraq's Kurdish fighters, also known as the peshmerga, largely paused their advance, commanders stationed along the front to Mosul's east said, consolidating gains from the previous day.

Iraqi army forces advanced to the south and east of Mosul, reaching the outskirts al-Hamdaniyah, a historically Christian town also known as Bakhdida and Qaraqosh that was once home to tens of thousands, east of Mosul. On the southern front, Iraq's federal police pushed toward the town of al-Houd, still home to hundreds of people.

Later on Tuesday, Iraqi officials said the advance had halted indefinitely.

Hundreds of Iraqi soldiers in the al-Hamdaniyah area were facing off against Islamic State snipers, rocket attacks and suicide bombers. Iraqi army Lt. Col. Mohammed Shaker said al-Hamdaniyah had been surrounded and his forces had retaken six other villages over the past two days.

More than 25,000 troops have mobilized for the Mosul fight, a massive operation that's expected to take weeks, if not months. Iraq's second largest city is still home to more than a million people and humanitarian groups have warned that up to a million could be forced to flee, unleashing a large scale humanitarian crisis.

When Islamic State fighters moved into the territory around Mosul more than two years ago, the group attacked with convoys that traversed the open desert and held parades in the city center. Now, faced with punishing airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition, the extremists have had to change tactics, melting into civilian populations and building networks of tunnels under residential areas so they could move without being seen from above. Thick funnels of black smoke have been rising from the towns surrounding Mosul - a past tactic used by the Islamic State militants, setting oil barrels aflame to try to screen them from American airstrikes. …

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