Iraq keeping Turkey on the bench in the battle for Mosul

Published October 23rd, 2016 - 08:03 GMT
Iraqi troops on Saturday mounted a major attack to recapture a mostly Christian town near Mosul from Daesh. (AFP/File)
Iraqi troops on Saturday mounted a major attack to recapture a mostly Christian town near Mosul from Daesh. (AFP/File)

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Saturday insisted that only Iraqi forces would take part in the campaign to recapture the northern city of Mosul from Islamic State, despite the US hinting that it was sympathetic to Turkey's demand to be involved.

Speaking after meeting US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter in Baghdad, al-Abadi denied that any agreement had been reached on a Turkish role in the fight for Iraq's second-largest city.

"Although the Turks still want to participate in the battle for Mosul, we are saying thank you, but the Iraqis all together are capable of expelling Daesh [Islamic State] from Mosul," the Iraqi premier said.

On Friday Carter, after a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said: "I think Iraq... understands that Turkey is a member of the counter-ISIL coalition, will play a role in counter-ISIL operations in Iraq," adding that details of any Turkish role would have to be agreed by Baghdad.

Erdogan and al-Abadi have been engaged in a war of words over the last week as the Turkish president repeatedly insisted that his country should play a part in the Mosul campaign.

Al-Abadi has rejected those calls and repeated the Iraqi government's position that Turkish forces present in Kurdish-controlled areas near Mosul should withdraw from Iraq.

Meanwhile, security officials in the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk announced that a curfew would be lifted at 4 am on Sunday (0100 GMT) after combing the city for remaining Islamic State infiltrators.

The extremist group launched multiple attacks in the city, some 170 kilometres south-east of Mosul, on Friday, in an apparent diversionary move.

Government and Kurdish forces were carrying out a mop-up operation in several neighbourhoods in search for Islamic State fighters who might have been injured during the clashes, a security source said earlier.

Other suicide militants blew themselves up while they were besieged by security forces, the source said on condition of anonymity.

At least 47 Iraqi troops and 39 militants have been killed in the Kirkuk violence, according to a local security source.

Russia meanwhile said its reconaissance systems indicated that warplanes of the US-led coalition were responsible for an airstrike Friday on the village of Dakuk, south of Kirkuk.

According to a local official, the strike killed 15 women attending a funeral.

There was no immediate reaction from the United States to Russia's accusation.

Government forces, backed by Kurdish forces and a US-led air alliance, started a long-awaited campaign on Monday to drive Islamic State from Mosul, Iraq's second-biggest city.

Iraqi troops on Saturday mounted a major attack to recapture a mostly Christian town near Mosul from Islamic State, state television al-Iraqi reported.

The Ninth Armoured Division, backed by US-led warplanes, stormed the town of Qaraqoush, around 20 kilometres south-east of Mosul, the broadcaster said.

The forces reached Qaraqosh, the centre of Hamdaniyah district, retook the town's main hospital and raised the Iraqi flag over it, the report said.

Islamic State seized Qaraqouch, the largest Christian-populated town in Iraq, in August 2014, forcing a mass exodus.

Also on Saturday, Iraqi broadcaster Alsumaria reported that one of its photographers, Ali Risan, had been killed by sniper fire while covering the advance of security forces south of Mosul.

Risan was the second journalist in as many days to die while covering the Mosul operations. Ahmed Mokhtaroglu, a reporter for the Turkmen Ili satellite television channel, was killed by sniper fire on Friday.

Islamic State captured large chunks of Iraqi territory in a blitz attack in mid-2014. In recent months, the radical militia has suffered military setbacks and lost ground in Iraq.

Islamic State still holds territory in neighbouring Syria, though it is on the back foot there as well.

By Ibrahim Khalil and Kadhem al-Attabi

© 2019 dpa GmbH

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