Iraqi forces attack Mosul, final major Iraq stronghold for Islamic State
Last Sunday, Oct. 16, a joint offensive to take the city of Mosul from the Islamic State was launched by Iraqi government forces, allied militias, Kurdish forces and more. Liberating Mosul, which was seized by the Islamic State in June 2014, is seen as a vital step in the military intervention against the extremist group. The battle marks the largest deployment of Iraqi forces since the 2003 invasion by the U.S. and coalition forces.
Reports from Mosul, delivered by refugees who managed to escape, indicated that the Islamic State rulers were cracking down harsher than usual in the weeks leading up to the attack. People caught attempting to leave faced million-dinar fines, unless they were former members of the Iraqi Army or police, in which case the punishment was beheading.
According to the refugees, the Islamic State fighters were frantically making military preparations, frequently absconding to an extensive tunnel network beneath the streets of Mosul.
Approximately 1.5 million citizens are estimated to still live within Mosul, which has raised concerns about a potential humanitarian crisis as the battle rages on. Iranian militants, who tortured and executed hundreds following the liberation of Fallujah in June, are being monitored closely for similar behavior as the fighting in Mosul continues.
Turkish forces have also entered the fray, helping the Kurdish forces prepare for combat. The Iraqi government has claimed they never gave Turkey permission to enter the county and has requested they withdraw. The Turkish government has refused, demanding they play a role in battling the Islamic State.
Meanwhile, the Islamic State has launched diversionary attacks since the outset of the fighting, hoping to draw some attention away from Mosul, which is considered to be the extremist group’s final stronghold in Iraq.
Some in Mosul have reported that militants have begun going house to house to collect used tires that could be set on fire to generate smoke screens.
“We expect everything,” said Sabah al-Numan, the spokesman for the Iraqi Counterterrorism Force. “We know this is the last station for ISIS — there is nowhere else for them to go. We have to prepare for a very tough fight.”
The battle is expected to continue for weeks, if not months, as more than 25,000 Iraqi ground forces and company work to expel the Islamic State from Iraq’s second-largest city.