The General Command of Peshmerga Forces of Kurdistan Region released the following statement Monday evening summarizing the day's accomplishments:
The Mosul operation is likely to continue for weeks, or longer, said Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commander, Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve, in a statement on Monday.
Over the past two years, Townsend detailed, coalition forces have carried out precision airstrikes, trained and equipped 54,000 Iraqi forces, and supported their Iraqi partners as they fought to liberate their country.
Though the coalition forces are providing wide ranging support, Townsend said, all ground forces in the operation inside the besieged city are Iraqi forces.
Coalition forces will continue to carry out airstrikes in order to minimize enemy combatants and limit civilian casualties, he said.
The operation comes after two years of ISIS control over Mosul where they have “committed horrible atrocities, brutalized the people and asserted the city as one of their twin capitals,” said Townsend, stressing that securing Mosul is necessary not just for peace and security for Iraq but for global security as a whole.
The United Nations is encouraging civilians fleeing Mosul to not move to the west where the UN and aid agencies do not have access to the territory.
Speaking to the press on Monday evening Lise Grande, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator, said that aid agencies expect the majority of people fleeing Mosul to move east, and some north and south. And aid agencies are prepared to receive populations in those areas.
They are trying to pass the message to civilians in Mosul that going to the west, where ISIS retains control, will be very dangerous.
The UN and aid agencies do not have a presence at the preliminary screening points for internally displaced (IDPs). For populations who flee to Kurdish-controlled areas, they will be first screened by the Peshmerga. For populations who flee to Iraqi-controlled areas, the Iraqi military is responsible for screening.
No Popular Mobilization Units, the Shiite militias, will do any screening, Grande stressed.
The UN and aid agencies are based at a distance from the frontlines. There are no armed UN guards protecting the international organizations, Grande said; the Iraqi forces and Peshmerga are providing security for them.
Grande warned that no institution in the world can deal with the displacement of more than 150,000 at a time. If that many move at once, “we are paralyzed” she said. Any more than 40,000 at one time, and it starts to get tough she said.
As many as 1 million are expected to flee over the course of the offensive.
The humanitarian effort remains underfunded. “We are grateful” for what contributions they have received, said Grande. But “it’s just not enough money for what we’re facing.”
The Director General of the Joint Crisis Coordination Centre (JCC) of the Kurdistan Regional Government's Ministry of the Interior, Hoshang Mohamed, reported that no internally displace persons (IDPs) arrived at safe sites today.
The Syrian government has welcomed the Iraqi government's announcement of the start of the Mosul offensive, saying it considers victory over ISIS in Iraq is a victory over ISIS in Syria.
According to a statement from an official at the Syrian foreign ministry, “Syria welcomes this announcement and declares its strong support for the Iraqi government and army and the forces supporting it, including the Popular Mobilization Forces,” the Syrian News Agency (SANA) reported, citing an official source.
The official described the operation as an important step and emphasized that Syria opposes Turkish troops' participation in the battle and considers those who are trying to obstruct both Iraq and Syria in their efforts to combat terrorism are themselves supporters of terror.
“Syria affirms that victory over ISIS in Iraq is a victory over ISIS in Syria, because the battle against ISIS and other terrorist groups is a battle against terrorism and those who support, arm, and fund it,” the source said.
“Syria warns against the dangerous and aggressive statement and positions of the Turkish regimes against the people of Iraq and against the decision to liberate Mosul, which can only be considered as another attempt by the Turkish regime to use deception regarding the battle to end terrorism and the unjustified occupation of Syrian and Iraqi territories,” the source added.
“All those who refrain from supporting the people and leaderships of Syria and Iraq in fighting terrorism under any pretext, and those who obstruct the two states’ efforts to uproot terrorism, are in fact supporting terrorism and standing against the resolutions of the UN and international legitimacy on terrorism.”
The day before the Mosul liberation began, the global anti-ISIS coalition carried out four airstrikes in the Mosul area, engaging: “three ISIL tactical units, two staging areas, 12 assembly areas, and a bridge; destroyed six tunnel entrances, five supply caches, four repeater tower generators, four mortar systems, a repeater tower, four repeater antennas, four solar panels, two artillery systems, two vehicles, two tunnels, and an anti-air artillery system; damaged a trench tunnel network; and suppressed three mortar systems.”
The coalition confirmed the strikes in a statement released on Monday by the Combined Joint Task Force of Operation Inherent Resolve.
A senior ISIS official and his deputy have been killed in airstrikes in a town on the Mosul outskirts, the Kurdistan Region Security Council’s anti-terror general directorate has announced.
“A moment ago the coalition warplanes targeted senior terrorist Ya’arb, an ISIS military official of the Mosul division, and his deputy Abu Ibrahim known as Zilzal, as well as some other militants in Tel Kaif town. All of them were killed,” reads the announcement, citing intelligence obtained by the directorate.
Abu Ya’arb was an ISIS military official on the Aski frontline, northwest of Mosul, the directorate reported.
The commander of the Iraqi Federal Police, Shakir Jawdat, said in a statement late Monday afternoon that the first responder forces, with the support of Abrams tanks and infantry forces, killed six ISIS militants six kilometers south of Mosul.
Abdul Ameer Rasheed, deputy commander in chief of the joint operation, commended the heroic forces in a press conference with President Masoud Barzani.
“We want to express our appreciation for the heroic mission of the Peshmerga forces and all the forces who fought alongside one another. We are going to be successful in this operation.”
Saeed Mamuzini, an official from the Kurdistan Democratic Party, said that ISIS has sent reinforcements to Mosul from Raqqa.
"ISIS has acted in two specific ways, they have moved some militants from Raqqah to Mosul, and they have, through loudspeakers, called on militants in Mosul to go to frontlines."
Mamuzini also said, "ISIS has executed a number of its militants in Mosul after they have reportedly deserted the frontlines."
Turkish Airlines canceled previously scheduled flights to and from the Iraqi capital Baghdad and the Kurdistan Region's capital Erbil on Monday, likely as a result of the beginning of the Mosul offensive earlier on Monday morning.
Kurdish President Masoud Barzani and Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzan arrived on the Khazir front this afternoon together with Kurdish security official Masrour Barzani, Rudaw reporter says.
At least six Peshmerga reported killed, 16 others wounded in first day of Mosul offensive against ISIS.
Peshmerga soldiers discuss intense battle with a few ISIS militants at a village on the Khazir front.
Turkish President Erdogn says that Iraqi demands for Turkey to stay out of the Mosul operation are “out of the question.” His statements came shortly after Reuters reported on Monday that about 1,500 Turkish-trained militia forces in northern Iraq will participate in the Mosul offensive.
The Iraqi forces have liberated five villages on the Gwer front southeast of Islamic States' (ISIS) Mosul stronghold. They also surrounded another village the Iraqi Defense Ministry stated on its website.
The captured villages are Adla, Abas Rajab, Jadida, Ibrahim Khalil, and Kan Harami.
The Peshmerga say they have liberated all of the villages they were assigned to liberate on the first day of the Mosul offensive against ISIS.
“The plan which was put in place has been fully implemented. The villages the Peshmerga set out to liberate have been liberated,” Sheikh Jaafar Mustafa, the Peshmerga commander for Unit 70, told Rudaw.
“We will implement any order we receive from our senior leadership. As of now, we have only been assigned to take these villages,” he added.
UPDATES FROM THE BATTLEFIELD:
Four Peshmerga soldiers have been killed.
Shalaw, the son of Kosrat Rasul Ali who is a senior member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) was slightly wounded in today's clashes with ISIS.
Shalaw is also a memeber of the PUK's leadership council.
German Foreign Minister says 'liberation of Mosul would be a turning point in the fight against Islamic State and an opportunity for stabilization of Iraq.'
An ISIS suicide car bomber races toward Peshmerga forces and a Rudaw crew. The car bomb detonated without casualties.
At least 20 ISIS militants are surrounded by Peshmerga forces in the village of Bazgirtan in Khazir.
“The militants have no way of escaping. They will either surrender or be killed, because the Peshmerga have surrounded the village from all sides,” said a Rudaw reporter.
Iraqi forces have liberated the towns of Hamam Alil and Namrud in southern Mosul from ISIS.
ISIS has set oil wells in Hamdaniya town on fire in an effort to halt further advances from the Peshmerga and raise huge columns of smoke to hide from airstrikes.
Peshmerga forces had liberated eight villages along the Khazir front , as part of their offensive on Mosul. Peshmerga forces advanced to the road to Bartilla, the closest town to Mosul. A team of US Special Forces was spotted in the area.
Coalition: Mosul battle likely to continue for weeks
Statement by Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve:
"This operation to regain control of Iraq’s second-largest city will likely continue for weeks, possibly longer.
"This may prove to be a long and tough battle, but the Iraqis have prepared for it and we will stand by them.
Rudaw English reporter Ayub Nuri reporting from Badana village on the Khazir front, where ISIS tried to infiltrate Peshmerga lines with three car bombs. Two were destroyed in airstrikes and the third managed to get very close to the Kurdish lines before detonating his payload.No casualties were reported.
Peshmerga forces have liberated seven villages on the Khazir front from ISIS, Rudaw reporter says..
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Douglas Silliman: "To the courageous Iraqi soldiers on the front lines: the American people wish you success in your mission. As the leader of the International Coalition to defeat Da’esh, the United States stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Iraqi Security Forces to help rid Mosul, Ninewa and all Iraq, of these terrorist gangs."
Rudaw video of fighting between Peshmerga forces and ISIS in villages on the Khazir front.
Abdulghani Assadi, commmander of Iraq's anti-terrorism forces, told reporters: "We will open a corridor for civilians to escape Mosul as soon as security forces arrive on the outskirts of Mosul. We also ask civilians to help security forces by providing them with intelligence information."
Peshmerga forces are advancing toward the Hamdaniya district southeast of Mosul, an ISIS stronghold outside the city.
Saeed Mamuzini, a Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) official from Mosul. told Rudaw that “ISIS militants have lost the morale to fight and their situation is bad inside Mosul. Many militants have fled to Syria together with their families.
Bombardment of ISIS in northeast of Mosul.
Peshmerga forces have liberated a village on the Khazir front and have surrounded two others, where fighting is ongoing.
Rudaw reporters on the ground reported that Peshmerga and coalition airstrikes have destroyed two ISIS suicide vehicles before they reached the Peshmerga lines.
The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has issued the following statement urging protection of civilians.
The sun has come up on the Peshmerga support forces advancing on several villages as smoke rises from positions hit by airstrikes.
Aziz Waisi, commander of the Kurdish Zeravani Special Forces, told Rudaw that President Barzani himself is personally overseeing today's operation.
Chief of general staff of the Peshmerga forces, Jamal Iminiki, told Rudaw English’s reporter on the front, Ayub Nuri, "You can't make any predictions about a city like Mosul. ISIS has a considerable force in Mosul. Many militants who were defeated in Iraqi cities such as Ramadi, Tikrit and Baiji might be in Mosul now even though some of them might have gone to Syria. We've an agreement with the Iraqis and coalition that the Peshmerga won't be going to Mosul."
Video of the Peshmerga breaking through the frontline barriers.
Peshmerga forces just broke the dirt mound barriers that mark the frontline between them and ISIS. The offensive aims to cut off ISIS from a major two-lane road that leads straight into Mosul city. Coalition jets have been pounding ISIS positions throughout the night, ahead of the Kurdish troop movements. The sound of gunfire could be heard across the plain as troops engage the militants.
Sheikh Jaafar Mustafa, Peshmerga commander for unit 70, told Rudaw on a frontline that the Peshmerga forces will advance first to liberate certain areas, and then the Iraqi forces will begin their advance. Later on, if Peshmerga support is needed, they will support the Iraqi forces.
The General Command of Peshmerga Forces of Kurdistan Region has released the following statement:
"At approximately 0600hrs on 17 October 2016 a large-scale, coordinated operation was launched by Peshmerga Forces in Khazir, East of Mosul, with Iraqi Security Forces from Gwer and Gayyara, both South of Mosul, as the first step to clear Ninewa province from ISIL terrorists."
"The operation in Khazir includes up to 4,000 Peshmerga in three fronts to clear nearby ISIL-occupied villages as part of the agreement between the Kurdistan Region and the Iraqi Federal Government. Global Coalition warplanes have pounded ISIL positions as of 16 October and will continue to provide close air support throughout the operation."
An engineering and bomb disposal unit of the Peshmerga is leading the way, clearing the road for the rest of the force to follow. Major Rwad, head of the unit told Rudaw English’s reporter Ayub Nuri, "ISIS makes most of its bombs in Mosul and ships them to be used on the fronts. We've seen and defused many bombs in the last two years and know their types. Our task is the most dangerous but we do that to ensure the safety of our forces."
About 10,000 Peshmerga forces on three fronts are preparing to launch a major offensive to liberate several villages around Mosul.
One Peshmerga commander told Rudaw English that “the Peshmerga target is not Mosul, but rather to pave the way for the Iraqi forces who are in the area to enter Mosul.”
Only Iraqi forces and police will enter Mosul, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has confirmed.
On that frontline, the location of which Rudaw cannot reveal for military reasons, there are Iraqi, Peshmerga forces, as well as global coalition military advisors in the area.
The forces are supported by heavy artillery, tanks, mortar fire, and snipers.
Peshmerga forces told Rudaw that ISIS have positioned suicide vehicles in trenches in an effort to halt their offensive.
The US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has released a statement expressing full coalition support for the Peshmerga and Iraqi security forces.
"Tonight Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of Iraqi operations to liberate Mosul from ISIL. This is a decisive moment in the campaign to deliver ISIL a lasting defeat. The United States and the rest of the international coalition stand ready to support Iraqi Security Forces, Peshmerga fighters and the people of Iraq in the difficult fight ahead. We are confident our Iraqi partners will prevail against our common enemy and free Mosul and the rest of Iraq from ISIL's hatred and brutality."
Peshmerga forces are preparing to launch an attack on nine villages, which are believed to have large civilian populations. The area is about 40 km wide. Iraqi forces are also present, coordinating with the Peshmerga in the joint offensive. Coalition planes have carried out airstrikes on these positions.
Peshmerga forces have fired artillery at ISIS positions inside Mosul. Sounds of explosions can be heard within the city.
"The hour has come and the moment of great victory is near," said Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in a televised address. "I announce today the start of the operation to liberate the province of Nineveh."
Brett McGurk extended his wishes to the “heroic” Iraqi, Peshmerga, and Nineveh forces who are fighting to liberate Mosul “after two years of darkness under ISIL terrorists.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has announced the start of the Mosul offensive in a televised address.
Stay tuned to Rudaw for live updates.