Operation Mosul: Iraqi Troops Enter City Limits for the First Time in Two Years

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For the first time in over two years, Iraqi army units have entered the outskirts of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and the Islamic State’s final staging ground in the country. According to Major General Sami al-Aridi of the Iraqi special forces, his troops got as far as the neighborhoods of Gogjali and Karama on Tuesday, pushing through fierce Islamic State (ISIS) resistance to retake a state television building, and breach the city limits. The closest unit to the city center is still six miles out.

“Daesh is fighting back and have set up concrete blast walls to block off the Karama neighborhood and our troops’ advance,” al-Aridi said, referring to the Arabic name for ISIS, Daesh. The push into Gogjali and Karama began with Iraqi troops firing artillery, tank and machine gun fire toward ISIS positions, supported by airstrikes from a U.S.-led coalition. ISIS responded with firing guided antitank missiles, and used small arms to resist the advancing Iraqi troops.

An officer with Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Force told CNN that ISIS also planted scores of mines and improvised explosive devices, or IEDs along the route to Gogjali. The officer also said as many as 20,000 civilians were trapped in Gogjali, many of whom ISIS is using as human shields. As the fight contracts into the denser areas of Mosul, fighting is expected to move into a house-to-house, street-by-street operation, and could take weeks, perhaps months, to liberate the city from ISIS control.

In a televised news conference with Iraqi forces in Qayara, a city south of Mosul, Col. John Dorrian, spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, spoke of the dwindling options for ISIS. “If Daesh stand and fight, they’re going to be killed. There’s no question about that. If they run, they will either be captured or killed. They are not going to be allowed to escape,” he said.

The operation to retake Mosul from ISIS began two weeks ago. After Iraqi troops abandoned the city over two years ago, fleeing from an emboldened and emerging ISIS, the city was governed under the extreme jihadist group. The U.S. military, which is supporting the effort with special ops forces on the ground and airstrikes from the sky, estimated 4,500 to 7,500 ISIS fighters remain in and around the city. The liberating forces–led by Iraqi troops, and bolstered by Kurdish fighters, Shiite and Sunni groups–is approximately 40,000 strong.

According to the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq, the number of casualties in the country is at its highest since June 2014: “A total of 1,792 Iraqis were killed and another 1,358 were injured in acts of terrorism, violence and armed conflict in Iraq in October 2016,” the group’s latest report said. In September, 1,003 people were killed, and 1,159 were wounded.

As troops fighting for his government inch toward Mosul, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi expressed confidence that the effort will prove successful. “There is no way to escape, either surrender or die,” he told the state-run Iraqiya TV.

Alec Siegel
Alec Siegel is a staff writer at Law Street Media. When he’s not working at Law Street he’s either cooking a mediocre tofu dish or enjoying a run in the woods. His passions include: gooey chocolate chips, black coffee, mountains, the Animal Kingdom in general, and John Lennon. Baklava is his achilles heel. Contact Alec at



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