by WorldTribune Staff, August 15, 2016
Kurdish peshmerga forces took 11 villages from Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) as they advanced on the terror group’s stronghold at Mosul.
The Kurds were backed by U.S. airstrikes on Aug. 14 as they advanced from the southeast of Mosul. Iraqi troops are taking up positions to the south of Mosul after capturing a key airfield last month.
Reuters reported that ISIL jihadists fought back, firing mortars at the advancing troops and detonating at least two car bombs.
It was from Mosul’s Grand Mosque in 2014 that ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a “caliphate” spanning regions of Iraq and Syria. The city is 250 miles north of Baghdad and the largest urban center under ISIL’s control with a pre-war population of 2 million.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said he aims to retake the city this year. In July, Iraqi forces captured the Qayyara airfield, 35 miles south of Mosul, to serve as the main staging post for the offensive.
Preparation for the offensive on Mosul is “approaching the final phase,” according to Brett McGurk, the U.S. envoy to the coalition fighting ISIL.