Iraqi forces launch fresh advance against ISIS inside Mosul

Iraqi security forces begin the second phase of their offensive against Islamic State militants in Mosul, pushing further into the eastern districts.
Members of Hashid Shaabi or Popular Mobilisation Forces fire towards Islamic State militant positions in west of Mosul, Iraq.
Members of Hashid Shaabi or Popular Mobilisation Forces fire towards Islamic State militant positions in west of Mosul, Iraq.PHOTO: REUTERS

ERBIL, IRAQ (REUTERS) - Iraqi security forces launched a fresh advance on Thursday (Dec 29) against ISIS militants in several south-eastern districts of Mosul, where the fight had been stalled for about a month, Interior Ministry officials said.

"Our troops now are advancing. In the first five or 10 minutes they took 500m. Just now they are starting to shoot," said an officer from the rapid response forces, an elite Interior Ministry unit.

Those forces were advancing in Intisar district, while thousands of federal police troops redeployed from Mosul's southern outskirts two weeks ago were expected to push into a nearby area, he said.

The battle for Mosul, involving 100,000 Iraqi troops, members of the Kurdish security forces and Shi'ite militiamen, is the biggest ground operation in Iraq since the US-led invasion of 2003.

Elite Iraqi soldiers have retaken a quarter of Mosul, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants' last major stronghold in Iraq, but their advance has been slow and punishing. They entered a planned "operational refit" earlier this month, the first significant pause of the campaign.

The upcoming phase appears likely to give US military advisers, part of an international coalition fighting ISIS, a bigger role as they embed more extensively with Iraqi forces.

Mosul, the largest city held by ISIS anywhere across its once vast territorial holdings in Iraq and neighbouring Syria, has been held by the group since its fighters drove the US-trained Iraqi army out in June 2014.

Its fall would probably end the group's ambition to rule over millions of people in a self-styled caliphate, but the fighters could still mount a traditional insurgency in Iraq, and plot or inspire attacks on the West.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who previously pledged to retake Mosul by the end of the year, said this week it would take another three months to rout ISIS in Iraq.