Raqqa offensive may overlap with Mosul
The military campaign to oust ISIS from its de facto capital in Raqqa, Syria may begin in the near future, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter hinted on Tuesday when he said he expected it may partially coincide with the ongoing Mosul operation.
“Yes, there will be overlap and that’s part of our plan and we are prepared for that,” said Carter speaking in Paris after a meeting of 13 defense ministers from the counter-ISIS global coalition.
He did not provide further details of the plan for Raqqa.
Mosul’s western front remains under ISIS control and there has been reported movement of ISIS fighters between the two cities.
Some displaced civilians (IDPs) have also fled westward.
“In these columns of people leaving Mosul will be hiding terrorists who will try to go further, to Raqqa in particular,” said French President François Hollande who hosted the meeting. He called for increased sharing of intelligence in order to identify the militants.
He also warned that, as ISIS faced defeat on the battlefields in Iraq and Syria, foreign fighters may start to return to their homes and called for “vigilance” in Europe.
Coalition forces carried out airstrikes in four locations in Iraq on Monday, the Combined Joint Task Force detailed in their daily release of strike information.
Near the town of Rutba on the Syrian border where the Iraqi army is battling an attempt by ISIS to retake control of the town, “one strike engaged an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed 11 vehicles.”
Near Mosul, “five strikes engaged an ISIL tactical unit and two rocket positions; destroyed 22 fighting positions, eight vehicles, eight tunnels, seven mortar systems, six rocket rails, three heavy machine guns, three rocket systems, two light machine guns, two command and control nodes, a VBIED, a communications tower, an ISIL-held building and a mortar cache; and damaged a mortar system.”
Near Sinjar, where Peshmerga forces repelled an ISIS attack Monday morning, killing at least 15 militants and destroying seven vehicles, “one strike engaged four staging areas.”
And near Sultan ‘Abd Allah, northeast of Qayyara, “one strike engaged an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed two vehicles and a weapons cache.”
Turkish FM threatens ground offensive in Iraq
Ankara has threatened that it could launch a ground attack into Iraq to counter any threats to Turkey.
“If there is a threat posed to Turkey, we are ready to use all our resources including a ground operation,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Kanak 24 in an interview. “It is our most natural right.”
Turkish planes regularly strike alleged Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) targets along the Kurdistan Region’s borders with Turkey. And Turkish forces are based in Bashiqa, northeast of Mosul, where they have been training local forces in the fight against ISIS.
Peshmerga enter Christian village near Mosul after four hour battle with ISIS
Peshmerga forces entered the village of Batnaya, north of the town of Tel Keppe and northeast of Mosul, after a four hour battle with ISIS on multiple fronts.
Sheikh Ali, Peshmerga commander on the front, told Rudaw that, "Our Peshmerga forces entered Batnaya, a predominantly Christian village, after four hours of heavy fighting."
“Our forces have launched a raid on the village and found three ISIS bodies,” Ali added. He said bomb clearing teams had been sent in to clear the village of bombs and booby traps.
Batnaya, 3 km north of Tel Keppe, has around 1,000 homes.
Peshmerga forces captured a number of missiles that belonged to ISIS. Some of them weigh up to 60 kilos and were used by the militants to attack the Peshmerga, a Rudaw reporter reports from the frontline.
UN spokesman reports preliminary evidence of ISIS war crimes around Mosul
The bodies of 70 civilians with bullet wounds were discovered by Iraqi security forces in Tuloul Naser village last Thursday and 50 former police officers being held outside Mosul city were reportedly killed on Sunday, according to UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville.
He told a regular U.N. briefing in Geneva that that the reports were hard to verify and should be treated as preliminary -- and not definitive – evidence of war crimes.
In fighting with Iraqi forces, ISIS expands control over remote border town
ISIS has expanded its control in the remote western Iraqi town of Rutba on the border with Syria, where Iraqi forces were locked in fighting with the militants for a third day Tuesday.
ISIS has expanded the area under its control in Rutba from a third to about half, Reuters reported, quoted security sources.
The insurgents attacked the town of Rutba on Sunday in a bid to relieve pressure on the northern city of Mosul.
Peshmerga forces have besieged Fazilliyah village near the town of Bashiqa, northeast of Mosul, as villagers continue to evacuate the area for a third day in a row.
Rudaw’s Nechirvan Hussein in Naweran town said that Peshmerga forces are waiting for the last resident of Faziliiyah to evacuate before pushing deeper into the village.
In scenes on Monday, villagers were seen raising while flags above their homes, to warn warplanes not to bomb.
Peshmerga forces resumed their offensive this morning against ISIS, liberating the village of Khursabad in the town of Naweran, Rudaw's Nechirvan Hussein reported from the field.
Some 4,000 people displaced in and around Mosul since start of offensive
Nearly 4,000 people have been moved from their homes in Mosul and its outskirts since the start of the offensive against ISIS nine days ago, adding to the swelling numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Iraqi media reports, quoting officials, said that 3,802 have been displaced since the start of the operation.
“The Iraqi Migration Ministry is continually moving people from places where offensives are about to happen,” said ministry official Ziya’a Sallal.
He said that his ministry has “moved 452 IDPs from Bashiqa and Qayyara safety and 54 other IDPs from Naweran and Bashiqa to the town of Zilkan in Sheikhan district."
Swedish PM in meeting with Kurdish president after pledging more military advisors for Kurdistan
Visiting Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven was meeting with Kurdish President Masoud Barzani on Tuesday, after announcing that his country will increase the number of military personnel in the Kurdistan Region from 35 to 70.
Lövfen arrived in Erbil late Monday evening after meeting with Iraqi top officials in Baghdad, where he pledged more support for the ongoing war against ISIS in the country.
“We will expand our efforts against Daesh (ISIS) because we consider it so important. Sweden plans on doubling the number of people from 35 to 70 and also to become more flexible geographically,” Löfven told reporters after his meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi in Baghdad.
For a third day, Iraqi forces fighting ISIS in remote western town
Iraqi forces, backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, are battling ISIS militants for a third day Tuesday in the remote western town of Rutba, hundreds of kilometers south of the operation to retake Mosul, AP reports.
"Fighting is ongoing in Rutba," Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, said Tuesday, adding that the town is still contested.
Meanwhile, Iraqi security officials said the town had been mostly taken by Iraqi forces and that a clean-up operation was underway against ISIS.
“The operation continues to clean what’s remained of the ISIS gangsters,” said Gen. Esmael al-Mahlawi, commander of the Anbar operation, in a press statement on Tuesday.