Iraqi troops battle for last town before Mosul

Iraqi troops advancing towards Mosul battled on Saturday for the last town left between them and the Islamic State stronghold to the north, which is already under assault from special forces fighting inside the city’s eastern districts.
Iraqi troops battle for last town before Mosul
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Mosul

Saturday’s attack on Hammam al-Alil, about 15 km (10 miles) south of Mosul, targeted a force of at least 70 Islamic State fighters in the Tigris river town, commander of the Mosul operations Major-General Najm al-Jabouri said. Jabouri said the assault began around 10 am. Some militants had already tried to escape across the river, but others put up heavy resistance and the troops had thwarted three attempted suicide car bombings. 
“(The battle) is very important - it’s the last town for us before Mosul,” Jabouri told reporters. Iraqi helicopters were supporting the Army, he said, backed also by jets from a US-led air coalition which had been hitting Islamic State targets in the town for several days. A military statement said security forces had raised the Iraqi flag over a government building in the town, but did not say whether it was fully under their control. 
The Army and accompanying security forces aim to push the southern front up to Mosul to join troops and special forces that broke into the city’s east this week, taking six districts and carving out a foothold in the militants’ Iraq bastion. 
Recapturing Mosul would effectively crush the Iraqi half of a self-proclaimed caliphate declared by Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi from the pulpit of a Mosul mosque two years ago. His Islamist group also controls large parts of east Syria. 

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