Iraqi Forces Make Significant Gains Against ISIS Terrorists In Mosul
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An Iraqi military commander said the Iraqi forces have retaken around 70 percent of Eastern Mosul from ISIL militants and expect to reach the river bisecting the city in the coming days.
Lieutenant General Talib Shaghati, who is also head of the elite counter-terrorism service (CTS) spearheading the campaign to retake the northern city, said the cooperation of residents was helping them advance against the ISIL, Iraqi News reported.
In its 12th week, the offensive has gained momentum as the Iraqi forces and their allied forces renewed their push for the city a week ago, clearing several more Eastern districts despite fierce resistance.
“Roughly 65-70 percent of the eastern side has been liberated,” Shaghati said in an interview in the Kurdish capital of Erbil. “I think in the coming few days we will see the full liberation of the Eastern side”.
The Western half of the city remains under the full control of ISIL, which is fighting to hold on to its largest urban stronghold with snipers and suicide car bombs numbering “in the hundreds”, according to Shaghati.
Although vastly outnumbered, the militants have used the urban terrain to their advantage, concealing car bombs in narrow alleys, posting snipers on tall buildings with civilians on lower floors and making tunnels and surface-level passageways between buildings. They have also embedded themselves among the local population.
The presence of large numbers of civilians on the battlefield has restricted Iraqi forces’ use of artillery but the cooperation of residents has also helped them target the militants.
“They give us information about the location of the terrorists, their movements and weapons that has helped us pursue them and arrest some and kill others,” Shaghati said.
In the run-up to the Mosul offensive, Iraqi officials expressed hope that residents would rise up against ISIL, accelerating the group’s demise in the city.
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Turkey and al-Nusra Front (recently renamed to Fatah al-Sham Front) have increased contacts in recent days to pressure Russia through certain joint moves in Idlib to make concessions in Astana peace talks, a high-ranking security source in the operations room of Syria’s allies disclosed.
The source underlined that al-Nusra Front is preparing for several attacks, ordered by Turkey, to weaken the ceasefire.
Ankara has also called on the terrorists to launch different attacks on several points so that Russia will be forced to make concessions in Astana negotiations.
The source added that Turkey aims to persuade the terrorists to show hostile behavior towards the Syrian army to pressure Russia and find a place for al-Nusra Front in the peace talks.
Reports said that senior Turkish military officers have been deployed in Western Aleppo and Idlib and coordinate operations with al-Nusra commanders, adding that cooperation between the ISIL and al-Nusra Front will also be witnessed in Syria in the near future.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday that the talks on the settlement of the Syrian armed conflict will begin in Astana, Kazakhstan, on January 23.
“The negotiations will begin in Astana on January 23. We will continue work over the political settlement of the Syrian crisis,” said the Turkish foreign minister.
“If we are unable to stop the ceasefire violations, the Astana meeting may fail,” the minister said.
The Turkish foreign minister also said that Russian experts would arrive in Turkey on January 9-10 to discuss the forthcoming inter-Syrian consultations in the capital of Kazakhstan.
“Russian officials will visit Turkey on January 9-10 to discuss the framework for Syrian peace talks,” he added.