To secure Mosul, Iraq army makes desert push with US help

On a dusty ridge west of Iraq's second city, the army's 9th Division is advancing through exposed territory in a push to sever the road between west Mosul and the IS-held town of Tal Afar.

To secure Mosul, Iraq army makes desert push with US help

World Bulletin / News Desk

Much of the fighting for west Mosul will be at close quarters, but Iraq's battle against the ISIL group is also being waged in the open desert.

The main route from Tal Afar to IS-held territory in Syria has already been cut, but severing the road from the town to Mosul will prevent the extremists from resupplying or retreating as they come under pressure from Iraqi forces advancing from the south.

The fight is not an easy one, says the division's commander, Staff Lieutenant General Qassem al-Maliki.

"The progress is slow, honestly," he said.

"The problem is one of terrain, not the enemy. It seems easy, but it's exposed and there are no roads. Everywhere we move the bulldozers have to go ahead to make a path for us."

As he spoke, army forces illustrated his point as they moved across the plain below.

The seemingly endless convoy of tan tanks and armoured vehicles crawled slowly across the open desert behind a bulldozer, throwing up a massive plume of dust.

The 9th Division's position in Talul al-Atshan is one of the highest points in Nineveh province, and would ordinarily provide them with a view across Mosul and the plain around it.

But on Monday, the view gradually disappeared behind a thick haze of grey-black smoke rising from fires set by IS to stymie attack helicopters and warplanes.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 28 Şubat 2017, 17:48