Mosul frontline: Iraqi forces set to enter city
Iraqi Prime MInister Haider al-Abadi said Islamic State fighters holding the city -- their last bastion in Iraq -- will 'either die or surrender'. Photograph: (AFP)
US-backed Iraqi forces were set to enter Mosul Monday after two weeks of fighting Islamic State militants on the outskirts of the city.
Lieutenant Colonel Muntadhar Salem said the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) had recaptured Bazwaya, one of two IS-held villages standing between Iraqi security forces and the eastern edges of Mosul.
"Tonight, if everything is secured, we will be 700 metres from Mosul," Salem said.
Some 50,000 Iraqi soldiers, policemen, and Kurdish peshmerga are advancing on Mosul, backed up by US-backed coalition airstrikes.
International news agencies AFP and Reuters reported that fighting was underway in Karama district, which troops invaded on Monday.
Iran-led Shi'ite fighters of the Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) joined the battle two days ago but they will not be entering Mosul. Instead, they will head to Tal Afar in the west to cut off Islamic State's supply lines between Mosul and the Syrian border, AFP reported.
Colonel Mustafa al-Obeidi told AFP via radio, "They're fleeing, the jihadists are fleeing into Mosul," as Iraqi forces approached Bazwaya.
CTS troops also entered Gogjali, the second village held by IS.
Senior CTS commander Abdelwahab al-Saadi told AFP the Iraqi troops were still 2.5 kilometres away from Mosul.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the troops were closing off all escape routes.
"God willing, we will chop off the snake's head, they have no escape, they either die or surrender," Reuters quoted him as saying.
(WION with inputs from agencies)