Iraqi troops enter eastern Mosul

The eastern gate to the city is liberated. Several jihadists killed in battle, no losses among government ranks. An estimated 3 to 5 thousand fighters still in the area; civilians used as human shields. Local sources speak of mass murder and forced displacement imposed by ISIS. Tensions between Ankara and Baghdad.


Baghdad (AsiaNews) - The Iraqi army and Kurdish Peshmerga militia, engaged in the offensive against the Islamic State (IS) in Mosul, have broken the jihadi front line without suffering any losses.

Military spokesman Sabah al-Numan told the BBC that several jihadist fighters died in the clashes. This has allowed government forces to return to the outskirts of the city, the northern metropolis and the second most important in the country, for the first time since June 2014, after it fell into the hands of the so-called "Caliphate".

"We broke the front line in the center of Mosul - said al-Numan, the Anti-Terrorism Department (Cts) - We had a very tough fight with ISIS in this area and we could liberate it very fast and also without any casualties, in front of many dead and executed from ISIS".

In its 17th day, the offensive launched against the Islamic State seems - at least so far – to have been a military success. About 50 thousand men are engaged in the operation, including Kurdish Peshmerga and Sunni tribal militias.

Last week government troops ousted the jihadists from several towns and Christian villages in the Nineveh plain, including Bartella and Qaraqosh. The Christian community celebrated with Masses and prayers of thanksgiving, waiting to return to their homes.

Yesterday the offensive targeted the eastern district of Mosul, where the government had reassumed control of the buildings that once housed Kukjali State TV. The military then went on to break through the front in the outlying district of Karama.

Independent witnesses following the Iraqi army describe a  "weak" jihadist resistance to the advance of government troops, supported by US-led coalition air raids.

Despite the rapid advance, the military leaders continue to maintain a cautious attitude. The common opinion is that the mission will take months to fully complete. However, the liberation of Mosul remains the primary objective of this war.

In recent days the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had stated that there would still be between 3 and 5 thousand jihadists in Mosul; the head of government addressed them saying that "you have no escape routes" and the choice is "surrender or die." At least a thousand of these jihadists are believed to be foreigners, mostly from Uzbekistan, Turkey and other nations.

In view of the escalation of the fighting, the leaders of the United Nations renewed the alarm for the safety of the more than 1.5 million civilians stuck in Mosul.  IS militiamen are reportedly using them as "human shields" to stop the advance of government.

Added to this are reports of mass killings and forced displacement perpetrated by jihadists against civilians. According to latest figures 1792 people died in the month of October in Mosul, including 1,120 civilians.

Meanwhile, the verbal war continues between the Iraqi Prime Minister al-Abadi and Turkey on the Ankara army role in the Mosul offensive, already recently the subject of a series of tension. Yesterday the head of the Baghdad government once again warned Turkey, after it allocated tanks and trucks near the border.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insists that Ankara has a major role in the offensive against the Islamic State in Mosul; a position rejected by Baghdad which has renewed its request for Turkey to withdraw troops from its territory. "We do not want a war with Turkey - said al-Abadi - but if you trigger clashes, we will respond. We consider them enemies and treat them [the Turks] as enemies. "

This latest round of tension between Ankara and Baghdad was sparked by the words of Turkey’s President Erdogan who claimed Mosul for only "Arabs and Sunni Kurds, along with the Turkmen". Added to this is the partition plan between Kurds and Turks in areas east and west of Mosul.

Chaldean Patriarch Mar Raphael Louis Sako has frequently spoken out against the partition plans to divide Mosul and the Nineveh Plain, which would include the elimination of the Christian presence.  He has roundly affirmed that these are "Christian lands".

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