Iraqi troops inside ISIS-held Mosul for first time since 2014
Iraqi forces have entered ISIS-held Mosul for the first time in more than two years, the Iraqi Defense Ministry said, in an operation to free the key city from the militant group’s control.
Iraqi Ministry of Defense spokesman Brig. Gen. Tahsin Ibrahim told CNN that units of the 9th Armored Division had entered the city, adding that troops had stormed the neighborhood of al Intisar in the east.
Penetrating the eastern border on Thursday has been the most significant breakthrough in the offensive, launched more than two weeks ago. Officials have warned that entering Mosul will likely trigger the fiercest fighting seen yet, and that the battle is expected to be fought “street to street,” or even “house to house.”
US general: Fight for Mosul will get tougher
Around 100,000 forces in an Iraqi-led coalition have taken part in a decisive push toward Mosul, freeing communities from ISIS control village by village along the way.
But only Iraqi forces are entering Mosul, commanders say, a testament to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s claims that the battle for Mosul is at its core an Iraqi fight, and that sectarian politics must be kept from the key battle.
Counter-terrorism forces have been on the city’s eastern outskirts since Monday but have struggled to push through ISIS snipers, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), suicide attacks and even boulders placed on the main road to the city to slow forces’ progress.
As forces broke through the city’s border, the Iraqi Army opened up a safe route out for civilians to evacuate from the frontline in al Intisar, Ibrahim told CNN.