Khazer: In the week since Iraq launched an operation to retake Mosul from the Islamic State group, its
forces have pushed toward the city from the north, east and south, battling the militants in a belt of mostly uninhabited towns and villages.
In the heavily mined approaches to the city, they met with fierce resistance as IS unleashed suicide truck bombs, rockets and mortars. In other areas, the militants retreated, and in at least one village civilians rose up and overthrew them before the troops arrived.
The Islamic State meanwhile launched a massive assault on the city of Kirkuk, some 170 kilometres (100 miles) away, killing at least 80 people in two days of clashes in an apparent attempt to divert Iraqi forces.
Iraqi special forces captured Bartella, a historically Christian town some 15 kilometres (9 miles) east of Mosul, and celebrated victory by raising the Iraqi flag over its church and ringing the church bell.
The Iraqi army's 9th Division pushed into the nearby town of Hamdaniyah and said it captured the main government compound. To the north, Kurdish forces known as the Peshmerga have driven IS out of several villages and, along with Iraqi special forces, have encircled the town of Bashiqa.
Progress has been slower to the south of Mosul, where troops have only advanced to around 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the city. They were hampered over the weekend after IS torched a nearby sulfur plant, sending a cloud of toxic fumes into the air that mingled with smoke from oil wells the militants had lit on fire.
The US-led coalition is providing airstrikes and ground support, with more than 100 American soldiers embedded with Iraqi units and hundreds more in staging bases near the front lines. An American soldier was killed by a roadside bomb near Bashiqa, marking the first US casualty of the operation.
The Peshmerga said that 25 of its fighters have been killed since the operation began. The Iraqi military has not released any casualty figures.
Iraqi and Kurdish forces have asked for more coalition airstrikes, and the Kurds have requested more armored vehicles and roadside bomb detectors. They say most of the fallen Peshmerga troops were traveling in unarmored vehicles.
Two Iraqi television reporters have also been killed, one while covering the fighting south of Mosul and the other while covering clashes in Kirkuk.
The UN and aid organisations say some 5,000 civilians have been displaced since the operation began, a tiny fraction of the 1 million people remaining inside Mosul.
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Updated Date: Oct 24, 2016 16:09:15 IST