Abadi: Battle to liberate Mosul continues

Abadi's announcement came after the Iraqi Federal Police raised the country’s flag in the southern besieged village of Shoura

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Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Saturday that the battle to liberate Mosul continues shortly after the Iraqi Federal Police raised the country’s flag in the southern besieged village of Shoura, Al Arabiya News Channel reported.

"Today and yesterday we liberated many villages and we will continue the fight until all of province is free [of ISIS]." Abadi said.

In a brief statement released earlier on Saturday by the Iraqi police, it was revealed that forces managed to enter Shoura from four sides. It confirmed that ISIS is breaking down and withdrawing from its defensive positions.

The police also stated that it has liberated Ain-Nasr village from Shoura’s side killing five terrorists and destroying three booby-trapped cars.

Major General Maan Al-Saadi, commander of the 2nd special division said that the regions that were liberated from ISIS were handed over to “other forces” to establish security and hinder the return of extremists again. The police have also destroyed the network of tunnels extending to the center of Mosul.

Prior to Saturdays advancements in Mosul, a spokesperson of the International coalition announced on Friday that the Iraqi forces will halt its operations for two days to reinforce the success achieved since the beginning of the liberation operation in Mosul.

American Colonel John Dorian said in a video conference from Baghdad: “We think that it will take approximately two days before resuming our progress towards Mosul”, explaining that this pause comes within the plans of the coalition.

He added that this break is broad and will take place on several axes; it is necessary for the re-positioning, planning and cleansing operations undertaken by the Iraqi forces in the seized regions.

Dorian also pointed out that the break is taken to reinforce Iraqi forces’ position, stressing that they seek to help the Iraqi forces adapt to the tactics and decisions taken by the enemy until now.”

In the meantime, the coalition continues its raids targeting tunnels used by ISIS to surprise the Iraqi forces, as well as the terrorist organization’s command centers.

The spokesman added that the coalition has launched about 2500 “bombs, missiles and rockets” since the start of the battle of Mosul.

State-sanctioned Shiite militias launched an assault on ISIS west of the Iraqi city of Mosul on Saturday but reiterated that they would not enter the Sunni majority city.

Jaafar al-Husseini, a spokesman for the Hezbollah Brigades, said they launched an offensive Saturday along with other large militias toward the town of Tel Afar, which had a Shiite majority before it fell to ISIS in 2014. Iranian forces are advising the fighters and Iraqi aircraft are providing airstrikes, he said.

Iraq launched a massive operation to retake militant-held Mosul, its second largest city, last week. The involvement of the Shiite militias has raised concerns the battle could aggravate sectarian divisions.

The Mosul offensive involves more than 25,000 soldiers, Federal Police, Kurdish fighters, Sunni tribesmen and the Shiite militias, which operate under an umbrella organization known as the Popular Mobilization Units.

Many of the militias were originally formed after the 2003 US-led invasion to battle American forces and Sunni insurgents. They were mobilized again and endorsed by the state when ISIS, a Sunni extremist group, swept through northern and central Iraq in 2014, capturing Mosul and other towns and cities.

A US-led coalition has been providing airstrikes and ground support to Iraqi forces in the Mosul offensive, but al-Husseini said it had no involvement in the Iran-backed militias' advance on Tel Afar.

He said the militias will focus on Tel Afar and on securing the western border with Syria. ISIS still controls territory on both sides of the border, where it shuttles fighters, weapons and supplies between Mosul and the Syrian city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of its self-styled caliphate.

Iraqi forces advancing toward Mosul from several directions have made uneven progress since the offensive began. Iraqi forces are 4 miles (6 kilometers) from the edge of Mosul on the eastern front, where the elite special forces are leading the charge. But progress has been slower in the south, with Iraqi forces still 20 miles (35 kilometers) from the city.

There have been no major advances over the past two days, as Iraqi forces have sought to consolidate their gains by clearing explosive booby-traps left by the extremists and uncovering tunnels they dug to elude airstrikes.

(With AP)

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