Iraqi Prime Minister Says Foreign Ground Forces Not Involved in Mosul Operation

Before leaving the base senior commander Shex Jaffar Shex Mustafa told us they were ill equipped for the battle, and did not even have enough body armour.

Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky, the top commander of U.S. land forces in Iraq, said U.S. Army Apache attack helicopters are striking IS targets in support of the operation.

From Paris, Hollande said there is evidence Islamic State militants are fleeing, but the hope is they won't regroup in the Syrian bastion of Raqqa.

"Intelligence information indicates there are 5,000 to 6,000 Daesh fighters in Mosul", Shaghati said.

A member of Iraq's elite counterterrorism forces pauses as they advance toward Mosul.

Just as the Peshmerga forces recaptured nine villages on the first day of the offensive, the goal of the northeastern push is to retake and secure surrounding areas in Bashiqa before awaiting support from Iraqi troops to prepare to enter Mosul city, Abdel Hamid added. Iraqi federal police said forces had defused improvised explosive devices in areas liberated south of Mosul. As many as 5,000 ISIS fighters are believed to remain in the city.

Last December, Turkey deployed some 150 soldiers, equipped with heavy weapons and backed by 20 to 25 tanks, to the outskirts of Mosul.

An Iraqi officer from the 9th Division told The Associated Press that his troops were now about half a mile away from Hamdaniyah, a historically Christian town also known as Bakhdida, to the east of Mosul.

Over the past day, IS sent 12 vehicle bombs, all of which were blown up before reaching their targets, and Iraqi troops suffered a small number of casualties from the mortar rounds, an officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

"We may face a more complex situation in the battle for Mosul than expected", a Kurdish Peshmerga official told ARA News, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Iraqi army Maj. Gen. Maan al-Saadi told The Associated Press that elite forces had advanced on Bartella - a Christian town due east of Mosul - with the help of US -led coalition airstrikes and artillery.

Mosul is a Sunni majority town, and many fear the involvement of the Shiite militias in the operation could stoke sectarian tensions.

U.S. forces have begun to regularly collect shell fragments to test for possible chemical agents, given the use of mustard agent by IS militants in the months before Monday's launch of the Mosul offensive, one official said.

"I had one brother who became a martyr in 2007 and another who became a martyr in 2014", AP quoted him as saying. "This has been agreed upon".

"Liberating Mosul is important for the security of Kurdistan", Awni added.

The United Nations expects at least 200,000 more people to try to escape the city in the coming days and weeks, though it's possible up to a million will try to flee. It is separate from other Iranian Kurdish rebels groups that have also been active on the Iraqi side of the border such as the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) and the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK).

"The retaking of the [Isis] northern Iraq territory, Mosul, may lead to the return to Europe of violent [Isis] fighters", Julian King said.

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