Iraqi forces pause at edge of Mosul, weather cuts visibility

Iraqi forces pause at edge of Mosul, weather cuts visibility

Iraqi forces pause at edge of Mosul, weather cuts visibility

Tired but clearly elated Iraqi special forces troops pull back from Mosul as fresh fighters head in.

Iraqi counter-terrorism forces advance in Gogjali district of Mosul in northern Iraq, on November 1, 2016.

A few kilometers (miles) back from the front-line fighting south of Mosul, a group of Iraqi soldiers played patriotic music in their Humvees, snapped photos with mobile phones and cheered on the artillery blasts rocking a cluster of dusty, low houses on the horizon.

Media reports indicate that Iraqi troops are already inside Mosul.

Iraqi special forces paused their advance in an eastern district of Mosul on Wednesday to clear a neighborhood of any remaining Islamic State militants, killing eight while carrying out house-to-house clearances.

The advance into the eastern edge of Mosul heralded a new and more complicated phase - and most likely a more risky one for civilians - in a campaign that USA military officials say could last months.

Troops have reportedly taken full control of the industrial district within Gogjali and have it entirely surrounded.

The jihadists also reportedly killed 40 former Iraqi security forces members and dumped their bodies in the river, United Nations rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva.

Al-Asadi says that "we fear that Daesh militants could attack our forces or the town with mortars".

Bombs have been laid along the road into the city, he told an Associated Press reporter accompanying the troops. An official casualty report was not given, but officers mentioned one dead and one wounded. Mosul is the final IS bastion in Iraq, the city from which it declared a "caliphate" stretching into Syria. Its loss would be a major defeat for the jihadis, but with the closest Iraqi troops still some 10 kilometers (six miles) from the city center, much ground remains to be covered. Airstrikes by the US -led coalition supporting the operation added to the fire hitting the district. So far, they have been prevented from leaving in large numbers.

On Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told the 3,000 to 5,000 militants believed to still be inside Mosul that there was "no escape" and to "either surrender or die". There's no question about that.

Among those they hope to snare and kill is ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who is trapped in Mosul and looking for a way out. "We are now all responsible to put an end to it", Gressmann said.

Elite Iraqi forces had also recaptured the key village of Gogjali and taken control of a television station building belonging to a local affiliate of Iraqiya state TV on the eastern edge of the city. IS fighters also lit special fires to produce dark smoke in order to obscure the aerial view of the city. Families stood in their doorways, some holding white flags, while children flashed the "V" for victory sign to the passing troops.

Abdel Rahim al-Shemari, a parliament member from Nineveh, said in a press statement, "A segment of displaced Nineveh residents, amounting to almost 10,000, left homes at 15 villages for a few days and returned after liberation", pointing out that, "Another segment left the province since the start of battles in October 17th, and those stand at 9000 persons".

Tuesday's push into Mosul's outer limits by Iraqi and Kurdish forces marks the beginning of the second and more risky phase of the operation to pry the city from the terrorist group's grasp.

In the village of Bazwaya, just east of Mosul, residents hung white flags signaling a welcome for the Iraqi forces headed toward Mosul.

A US-led coalition has forced ISIS to retreat and a largescale campaign by Iraqi troops looks set to push the group of their stronghold in the northern city of Mosul.

"The security forces have reached the Sumar neighborhood", said an anonymous Mosul resident.

All the while, Iraqi advances in the south initially made food more expensive, then unavailable altogether.

As the fight moves into the city, the battlefield will become simpler in one respect: Under the battle plan, only the Iraqi army and the special operations forces are to enter the city proper.

They have been advancing north, their sights set on the town of Tal Afar which commands the city's western approaches.

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