Kurdish forces on Monday said they fended off two attacks by Islamic State fighters in northern Iraq as Turkish and Iraqi officials again issued contradictory statements about whether Turkish forces were involved in the campaign to take Mosul.
Peshmerga troops killed four Daesh suicide bombers at Eski Mosul, north of the city, and a fifth blew himself up, a local Peshmerga commander, Colonel Mohammed Mam Eskander, said, adding that there were no other casualties.
In the Sinjar area of north-western Iraq, an attack involving seven suicide bombers in explosives-rigged vehicles was foiled, local Peshmerga commander Qassim Shesho told dpa.
Sinjar was where the extremist group massacred members of the Yezidi community and took young Yezidi women and girls as sex slaves during their expansion across northern Iraq in mid-2014.
The suicide bombings appeared to be the latest in a series of diversionary attacks mounted by Daesh as it faces a coordinated Iraqi-Kurdish campaign to recapture Mosul, the only major Iraqi city it still controls.
Iraqi troops were meanwhile advancing east of Mosul, aiming to liberate the remaining Daesh-held villages in the area, General Abdul-Wahhab al-Saadi, head of the elite counterterrorism forces, said.
Some 200 families had been freed by Iraqi police after being taken as human shields by jihadis retreating from areas south of Mosul, General Najm al-Jabouri of the provincial operational command said.
In the western Iraqi town of Rutbah, areas of which were seized by Islamic State fighters in a surprise assault on Sunday, several captured members of the security forces and local tribal militiamen were executed by the militants, a military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.
Meanwhile, Turkey's foreign minister said that Turkish troops had killed 17 Daesh militants in artillery fire since the beginning of the Mosul operation.
Turkey had also supplied four F-16 fighter jets to the international anti-Islamic State coalition, minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said after talks with his French counterpart in Ankara, although it was unclear whether these are already in operation as part of the offensive.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said that the claims that Turkish forces were involved in the Mosul campaign were "false," echoing a similar denial from the Iraqi military.
On Sunday, Turkish state news agency Anadolu quoted Prime Minister Binali Yildirim saying that Turkish artillery and tank fire were supporting Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the Daesh-held town of Bashiqa, north-east of Mosul, at their request.
The possible involvement of Turkish forces in the campaign, being waged by an alliance of Iraqi military and police, Peshmerga, Shia militias and local Sunni and minority fighters, has been the subject of a war of words between Turkish and Iraqi leaders.
The Peshmerga said they had surrounded the town on Sunday as part of the operation to free Mosul.
Turkey, which is on good terms with the autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq, has maintained a base in Kurdish-controlled territory near Bashiqa, north-east of Mosul, despite repeated demands from Baghdad for it to withdraw.
The United Nations said on Monday that 7,000 people had been displaced so far by the Mosul operation. The majority of the displaced people were sheltering in host communities, said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
"The situation is fluid and the numbers and patterns of displacement are fluctuating as the front lines move," Dujarric said.
An aid agency said that none of the 1.2 million people thought to be trapped inside the city were known to have left so far.
Wolfgang Gressman, Iraq country director for the Norwegian Refugee Council, said he was "extremely concerned" about those still trapped inside Mosul.
They had no safe exit routes, could not be reached, and their basic supplies would soon start to run out, he said.
"People who have fled from surrounding villages and towns tell us they've been driven to despair waiting long days and weeks of hunger before they could flee to safety," Gressman added.
By Kadham al-Attabi and Can Merey
© 2019 dpa GmbH