Kurdish peshmerga forces attacked an Islamic State-held town northeast of Mosul on Monday, trying to clear a pocket of militants outside the city while Iraqi troops wage a fierce urban war with the jihadists in its eastern neighbourhoods.
According to reports, around 2,000 soldiers entered Bashiqa after artillery pounded the town at the foot of a mountain about 15 km across the Nineveh plains from Mosul.
“According to our military intelligence, there are no civilians left in Bashiqa,” said Peshmerga Brigadier General Iskander Khalil Gardi. “Our aim is to take control of this town while clearing out the Islamic State militants. We are making good progress as we have been hitting our targets since early morning. We look set to complete our mission.”
The Mosul campaign brings together a force of around 100,000 soldiers, security forces, Shi’ite militias and peshmerga, backed by a US-led coalition, to crush the Sunni jihadists.
To the south of Mosul, security forces said they had recaptured and secured Hammam al-Alil from Islamic State fighters, who they claimed had kept thousands in the town as human shields as well as marching many others alongside retreating militants towards Mosul as cover from air strikes.