An Iraqi Army armored vehicle returns from fighting in Nasser village. Photo from Rudaw video.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Iraqi military backed by an allied Sunni militia advanced into the contested Nasser village on the western Makhmour front, liberating a number of homes on Saturday in fierce fighting that began with an offensive against the Islamic State (ISIS) fighters earlier in the week.
"The Iraqi army and Hashd al-Watani (Sunni militia) have advanced into a few homes in the village of Nasser and clashes are still underway," Najat Ali, commander of the Peshmerga forces on the Makhmour front, told Rudaw.
Ali said that the aim of the Iraqi Army operation that began Thursday, with air backing by US-led coalition warplanes, artillery fire by US Marines and back-up provided by the Peshmerga, was to liberate eight villages. He said that so far only three villages -- Kudila, Karmrdi and Kharabardan – had been freed, calling it "a bad beginning for the Iraqi army.
"They should have liberated all the villages on this front with the most advanced weapons that are in their possession and all the forces they have brought here, as well as constant coalition air bombings," Ali said. He explained that "the Iraqi army began attacking ISIS positions in this area on two fronts.
They managed to enter Karmrdi and Kudila without any confrontation from ISIS on the first front, and on the second front they have been fighting ISIS for three days, but they have failed to take control of Nasser village."
A Rudaw reporter on the scene said that seven Iraqi soldiers have been killed and 40 others wounded in the offensive, which began Thursday.
Ali said that ISIS was unwilling to give up on Nasser village due to its strategic position and because of the militants’ limited capabilities there.
"ISIS never retreats from any place without putting up a defense. They fight back. This place is very important and strategic for both the Iraqi army and ISIS, as it overlooks a wide area, including Gayara and Shargat," two ISIS strongholds in southern Mosul.
He said ISIS fighters were also putting up a fierce fight for the village because they had no way of retreating or bringing in reinforcements, since bridges connecting the militants to their supply lines had been destroyed.
Ali said ISIS supplies were only possible by boat, limiting what could be brought in. “They can only bring bullets, food and ammunition."