First 900 civilians flee embattled Mosul, report says

Local forces, backed by the US-led coalition, have been steadily recovering ground surrounding the city since Monday (October 18) and are now focussing on a group of villages some 20km to the north and east. A road sign said the Mosul city center was 27 kilometers (17 miles) away. But Iraqi forces were facing stiff resistance inside the town shortly before he spoke.

Iraqi News reported that Iraqi security forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga have taken control of more than 80 percent of territory south of Mosul, including about 54 villages.

The fight for Mosul, launched this week by Iraqi security forces supported by US air power and advisers, could take months and is likely to feature periods of fierce combat, the commander of USA forces in the Middle East said Wednesday.

The United Nations previously said Iraqi security forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga will be involved in screening Mosul civilians to determine whether any are IS militants.

The PMF said it would back Iraqi government forces advancing toward Tal Afar, about 55 km west of Mosul. A day earlier, Bashiqa was pounded by airstrikes and mortar fire from peshmerga positions high above. "That place at the moment is Mosul - therefore we will be in Mosul".

Kerem Kinik, head of the Turkish Red Crescent organization, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the "humanitarian aspect" of the Mosul operation had not been well thought out by the coalition forces.

A U.S. general has said that Islamic State (Isis) leaders have shown signs that they are fleeing Mosul and leaving behind hardcore foreign fighters to battle coalition forces advancing on the city. More than 100 USA forces are embedded with the Iraqis, and hundreds more are playing a supporting role in staging bases.

IS captured Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, when it swept across much of northern and western Iraq in the summer of 2014.

US Lt Gen Stephen Townsend was speaking on the sidelines of the battle to retake the Iraqi city from the jihadist group.

"What I can report to you is that it is on track with the plan", he said. "I want to avenge them and I'm ready to die".

Last night, a senior Iraqi general called on Iraqis fighting for Isil in Mosul to surrender as a wide-scale operation to retake the militant-held city entered its third day. They will be advancing on the city from several directions.

The city's loss is widely predicted to deal a deathblow to the group's ambitions as a land-holding force in Iraq.

"And we will destroy them and defeat them so that they are not in a position to carry out extremist attacks against our peoples or our friends and allies, or against innocent people inside of Iraq and Syria", he added. US President Barack Obama has said it will be a "difficult fight".

The participation of the Shiite militias has raised concerns that the campaign could inflame sectarian tensions.

The U.S. military is carrying out airstrikes and artillery shelling in support of the operation. More than 100 USA forces are embedded with the Iraqis, and hundreds more are playing a supporting role in staging bases.

"That's what they're doing", said Volesky, commander of 101st Airborne Division and US and coalition land forces in Iraq.

  • Archie Newman