ISIS Loses Major Mosul Bastion

Mosul- ISIS has lost the 17th of July neighborhood, an important bastion in West Mosul, after Iraqi forces launched a new push from several directions to drive the militants from the city’s last pocket controlled by jihadists.

Now, the area controlled by the terrorist organization is no more than 7 percent of west Mosul, which is bisected by the River Tigris.

Jihadists are now retreating to the alleyways of Old Mosul to barricade in them.

Sources said that only “a limited number of gunmen” remain in the 17th of July neighborhood where heavy clashes are taking place between them and government forces.

Chief Lieutenant General Raed Shaker Jawdat, the commander of Iraqi Federal Police Forces, told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that his forces have “broken through the enemy fortifications” in the 17th of July neighborhood with mortar shells and machineguns.

Drones were also able to make target hits in enemy ranks, he said, although jihadist snipers tried to slow down the advance of the government forces.

In a statement Sunday, senior military commander Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir Rasheed Yar Allah said Iraqi special forces are moving to the al-Eraibi and al-Rifaie neighborhoods, while militarized federal police and regular army forces are fighting ISIS in nearby al-Ektisadieen and 17th of July neighborhoods.

Yar Allah also said the forces “have broken through the enemy fortifications” without giving more details.

The operation to retake Mosul was launched in October and the city’s east was declared liberated in January. Iraqi forces launched the operation to retake the west the following month.

In recent weeks, US-backed Iraqi troops have slowly closed in on a small cluster of neighborhoods in the city’s west.

Patriotic Union of Kurdistan media official in Mosul Ghayyath Sorji told Asharq Al-Awsat that territory under the control of ISIS jihadists is gradually declining.

“The territory controlled by the organization is only 7 percent of West Mosul, meaning around six neighborhoods in Old Mosul, he said.

Iraqi Forces Tighten Siege over ISIS in Mosul


Mosul – ISIS members have started fleeing northern and western sides of Mosul towards regions ruled by them in the Old City, making use of its narrow streets, security sources revealed.

Sources added that Iraqi security forces liberated on Wednesday new neighborhoods and raided others in the west of Mosul, while conflicts are ongoing between besieged ISIS members and the security forces.

An officer in the Iraqi Army said to Asharq Al-Awsat: “As security forces continue to push forward in all directions in the northwest and following the massive losses at the group’s side, ISIS armed men started to flee to regions ruled by them in the Old City – in Mosul.”

Old City includes thousands of besieged civilians – by the regime – amidst hunger, fear and shortage of medication and services. Although security forces have opened several secure facilities for their exit, yet ISIS snipers are preventing their safe arrival to security forces troops.

Citizen Hamed al-Obediy told Asharq Al-Awsat that he escaped on Wednesday along with 100 others from the Old City, and that ISIS armed men were absent at that moment or else “we would have been killed by now. They daily kill dozens of women, children and men who attempt to flee the region,” he added.

Commander of Federal Police Forces Lieutenant General Raed Shaker Jawdat told Asharq Al-Awsat that the forces are advancing in a quick pace towards northwest Mosul and besieging ISIS members in the fifth bridge region.

He added that the forces have liberated Harmat district, killed six group members and seized the ammunition depot and the command center. Jawdat concluded that terrorists’ defenses are collapsing.

Suicide Bombings are ISIS’ Last Choice in Mosul

Mosul- Iraqi forces tightened the noose on ISIS militants in western Mosul on Tuesday after one day at a time being able to shrink the group’s areas of control in the city.

As their last choice, ISIS militants now resort to suicide car bombs and booby-trapped tires to stop the advancement of Iraqi security forces that opened a new front against the organization in the northerner edge of Mosul’s western side.

“Our forces imposed yesterday their total control over the Harmat district, while the Rapid Response Unit and the Emergency Response Division entered the second Harmat district,” Commander of Federal Police Forces Lieutenant General Raed Shaker Jawdat told Asharq Al-Awsat on Tuesday.

He added: “The terrorists’ defenses have collapsed and they started to flee the area. Our guns, backed by drones, are chasing those who escaped, attacking their vehicles.”

According to Jawdat, 15 ISIS hardliners were killed and five of their booby-trapped vehicles were destroyed.

Also on Tuesday, the Interior Ministry’s elite Emergency Response Division and the army’s 9th Armored Division advanced in several parts of the northwestern side of the city facing heavy fighting from ISIS militants.

Meanwhile, as the Iraqi forces were attacking the hardline group by ground, coalition and Iraqi jets flying overhead conducted air strikes and destroyed several ISIS positions and several car bombs, killing tens of militants.

For his part, Colonel Abdel Rahman al-Khazali, a spokesman for federal police, said that dozens of ISIS militants were killed during the last battles and their corps were still lying on the streets and alleys of the city.

“While our forces were advancing from the Harmat district in the direction of the Iqtisadiyeen neighborhood, dozens of ISIS armed militants escaped inside the Iqtisadiyeen neighborhood, while others have tried to hide among refugees. But our forces opposed them,” al-Khazali said.

Tourism Sector Thrives in Kurdistan


Erbil – For over three years, the Kurdistan region has been suffering from an economic crisis driven by the Baghdad-led embargo, drop in oil prices, war against ISIS and the increase of Iraqi refugees. Yet, its tourism sector has started to recover, said the General Board of Tourism of Kurdistan.

Last year, Kurdistan hosted over 1.6 million mostly Iraqi tourists, along with an increased number of foreign tourists compared to previous years.

On Thursday, the Kurdish capital Erbil hosted the first Middle East Tourism Expo 2017 with the support of the Ministry of Tourism and Municipalities and in cooperation with the General Board of Tourism. The event saw the participation of 200 companies, restaurants and hotels from 16 Arab and foreign countries.

The director of Erbil’s tourism authority, Mawlawi Jabbar told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Through this event, we sought to enhance tourism relations between companies, restaurants and hotels in Kurdistan and the world.”

“This will have a major impact on tourism in the Kurdish region in general and open doors for job opportunities in the sector in Kurdistan,” he added.

The region province has strong potential for tourism, as besides its security stability, it has thousands of historic monuments and a beautiful nature with many rivers, wells, mountains, plains and natural reserves. It enjoys a mild summer and the winter season offers tourists the chance to practice sports like ice skating.

Sales manager at Erbil’s Ankawa Royal Hotel Shirine Ibrahim said that the tourism sector in Kurdistan needs more attention.

She told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The economic situation in Kurdistan has improved and the number of tourists has increased over the past months. Kurdistan is a beautiful country and has great touristic areas. We hope that more attention will be shown towards the sector, because tourism means investment and a revived economy.”

The General Board of Tourism of Kurdistan revealed that along with the projects it implemented in the last months, it intends to organize dozens of new activities to stimulate the sector.

The board’s spokesman Nadir Rusti told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We organized an ice skating festival in January, a car race on ice in March, the Middle East Tourism Expo 2017 took place last week and more projects will see the light in the future.”

He highlighted the contracts which were inked by local tourism companies and with Arab and global firms on the sidelines of the Middle East Tourism Expo, adding: “Companies from the region inked 203 contracts and memoranda of understanding with global companies to attract tourists and activate the sector.”

The official also revealed that the revenues of the Kurdish tourism sector are generally poured into the markets, meaning the citizen and the private sector.

Citizen Ali Hamed, who comes from Baghdad, said that he visits Kurdistan every year with his family to enjoy its tourism and beautiful nature. He added that he likes the Kurdish heritage, art, and music and hoped the Kurdish government would exert more efforts to promote tourism in the region in order to attract more tourists every year.

International Coalition Supports Erbil to Unify, Develop Peshmerga

Erbil– A team of advisors from the US, British and German ministries of defense, in cooperation with the government in Kurdistan, are seeking to establish a unified and developed Kurdish military force within the ranks of the Peshmerga.

A statement issued on Sunday by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said: “Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, Acting Minister of Peshmerga, and Peshmerga commanders met with an American, British, and German delegation about reforms in the KRG’s Ministry of Peshmerga.”

According to the statement, the meeting fell within government’s continuous efforts to implement important reforms within the Peshmerga and to establish a more professional armed force in the Region.

The Kurdistan Region, with support from a team of experts from US, British, and German defense ministries would work to find the best means to restructure the Peshmerga department, the statement added.

The meeting saw the coalition delegation presenting its plan regarding the Peshmerga ministry.

The statement issued by KRG said that the plan consisted of 35 points, which aim to create a strong, professional military force.

It added that the premiership welcomed the proposal and would refer it to the government for discussion and approval.

The plan will then be sent to the Kurdistan Region President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Masoud Barzani.

In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, the director general of Information and Culture at the Peshmerga Ministry said that the plan was aimed at restructuring the hierarchy at the ministry and provide Peshmerga forces with modern and developed training.

Meanwhile, Peshmerga forces faced on Sunday an attack launched by ISIS militants on a military base in Kirkuk.

An official told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that a group of five ISIS militants launched a pre-dawn assault on a Kurdish Peshmerga base, adding the Kurdish forces succeeded in repulsing the attack and killing the militants.

Iraqi Forces Open New Front against ISIS in Mosul


Mosul – Iraqi forces opened on Thursday a new front as part of their battle to liberate the city of Mosul from ISIS militants, who tightened their grip on civilians now trapped in the areas controlled by the organization.

An officer in the Iraqi army, lieutenant Mohammed al-Shamri told Asharq Al-Awsat that the military, Rapid Response units and Interior Ministry Federal Police troops kicked off early on Thursday a wide-range operation to recapture the northwestern areas of Mosul, particularly the neighborhoods of al-Harmat, Hawi al-Kanisah and al-Musharifah.

Al-Shamri said that Iraqi forces were capable to direct a beating strike against ISIS militants, killing tens of them.

“Hours after kicking off the operation, we liberated the third al- Musharifah neighborhood, al- Musharifah water facility and the northern part of the second al- Musharifah neighborhood. We are still advancing to liberate the other neighborhoods,” the officer said.

In the past few days, Iraqi forces had already prepared for the launch of the fresh front by opening a new exit for trapped civilians, who live in dire humanitarian conditions in the ISIS enclave.

The Federal Police and the Rapid Response unit were both advancing from the northwestern axis towards the area of al-Harmat.

Federal Police chief Shaker Jawdat told Asharq Al-Awsat that his forces plan to advance from the northwestern part of the city to surround the Fifth Bridge of the Old City area.

Another officer with the Rapid Response units said his forces infiltrated on Thursday in large parts of the Ihlila area towards al-Harmat and had recaptured the Hassouna village and the “Nineveh gas lab.”

In line with the ground operation launched by Iraqi forces along the entire Mosul fronts, the War Media Cell said on Thursday that the Iraqi air force launched numerous airstrikes on several ISIS positions in al-Harmat, Telafar and the 17 Tammuz areas and destroyed four weapon and explosive factories, in addition to a cache of missiles and explosives.

Iraqi Forces Kill 3 Prominent ISIS Commanders in Mosul

Kurdish Peshmerga forces gather in a village east of Mosul, Iraq

Mosul – ISIS executed 12 of its foreign and non-Iraqi Arab militants on the right side of Mosul, including prominent commanders accused of espionage for the Iraqi government and coalition forces, according to a Kurdish official.

Media official of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Gaith Surji said that ISIS executed 12 of its militants accused of espionage for the Iraqi government, adding that based on the information they received, a number of military and security commanders were among the executed.

Since ISIS took over Mosul in 2014, a large number of its Iraqi, Arab, and foreign militants have deflected from the organization. In addition, ISIS militants regularly fight internally over money and positions.

Many of Iraqi ISIS militants are trying to escape with families leaving Mosul or go undercover as sleeper cells, according to civilians, adding that most of the remaining ISIS militants fighting security forces in Mosul are foreigners.

Lieutenant General Raed Shaker Jawdat, head of the Iraqi federal police, stated that Iraqi forces killed ISIS leader Abo Ayoub after attacking his vehicle on the Fifth Bridge.

Jawdat told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that according to intelligence, the police killed other commanders; Abo Abdallah in Rifai area and Nafei Abdallah and two of his bodyguards in Hawi area.

Federal police’s drones and artillery continue to target ISIS clusters and movements in the strategic July 17 neighborhood, west of Mosul. In addition, 17 militants were killed during the bombardment on an ISIS outpost behind al-Sahaba mosque.

Jawdat pointed out that since the initiation of the liberation operation of the right side of the city, police drones killed 859 ISIS militants, including prominent leaders, destroyed 284 booby-trapped cars and 253 booby-trapped motorcycles, and liberated over 274 kilometers so far.

As for humanitarian effort, Iraqi forces rescued 265,000 civilians in combat areas, while 30,000 were able to go back to their liberated residential areas.

Lieutenant General Jawdat concluded that the military included several new tactics on the military plans and updated their accuracy factor in targeting the enemy, in addition to using developed techniques to avoid civilian casualties.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Active in Dozens of ‘Premises’ in Mosul


Irbil – The Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards is active in Mosul through dozens of military and political premises established in the western side of the city under the wings of the Popular Mobilization Forces, informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat on Sunday.

Sheikh Muzahim Huwet, the spokesperson for the Arab tribes in Nineveh, said that former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki “is currently working to form several tribal councils in Nineveh that are linked to him and directly supported by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.”

Huwet added: “They seek to win the largest number of parliamentary seats in Mosul and also the majority of seats at the governorate’s council, in order to factionalize the Sunni Arabs, to Shi’itize Mosul and fight the Kurdistan district.”

The Quds Force is a special forces unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards responsible for their extraterritorial operations.

Separately, section XIV Kurdistan Democratic Party relations official in Mosul, Sheikh Muhyiddin Mezouari uncovered the presence of “Sunni tribes linked to the Maliki movement,” adding that those tribes possess arms.

“The political forces supporting those tribes seek to shake the security situation in the liberated areas and to ignite strife between residents,” Mezouari said.

Also, an official from one of the Popular Mobilization Forces’ factions with offices in Mosul said that Iranian officers are constantly present in those offices, adding that few days ago, Iran provided its militias in Mosul with heavy weapons and drones. However, the official did not elaborate.

Iran seeks to open a ground road from Mosul to the Syrian territories to supply the regime of Bashar Assad and the “Hezbollah” party with arms and militants and to increase its powers in the area by controlling the city of Mosul and getting closer to the borders of Irbil, the capital of Kurdistan.

Iraqi Forces Open New Front West of Mosul


Mosul – Iraqi forces, backed by airstrikes by the international coalition and Iraqi air force, opened a new front in the battle for the city of Mosul.

An officer in the Iraqi army, who chose to remain anonymous, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the new front has been opened west of the city.

The forces are seeking to liberate the July 17, al-Harmat, al-Mshayrfa and Hawi al-Kanisa neighborhoods from ISIS, he revealed.

They are also seeking to speed up the operation of liberating the embattled city.

In a related development, head of police Shaker Jawdat told Asharq Al-Awsat that his forces have made new advances in the area surrounding the Grand al-Nuri mosque in Mosul’s Old City.

He said that 30 terrorists were killed and 12 mobile positions were destroyed in the advance.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi announced that Iraqis should prepare for the declaration of victory in Mosul, while also warning of strife between Arabs and Kurds.

He said during a national unity festival that Iraq is edging closer towards a new phase “despite of the major and ongoing challenges.”

“Achieving peace and a dignified life for our citizens is among our main priorities. This nation belongs to all Iraqis regardless of their affiliations,” he added.

“The day of the liberation of Mosul is near and its residents should not surrender to rumors,” he stressed.

He added that the capabilities of ISIS have been destroyed and the terrorist group has left large quantities of weapons in its wake.

The German press agency (dpa) quoted Abadi as saying: “We do not like war, but it has been imposed on us by ISIS and we have been victorious against it.”

“War is not easy, but we have no choice but to be victorious in order to protect our citizens.”

Addressing Kurds, the Iraqi PM said: “They are first-class Iraqi citizens. There are campaigns aimed at creating strife between them and the Iraqi people.”

Iraq’s strength lies in the diversity of its people, whether they are Sunni, Shi’ite, Kurdish, or Christian, Abdadi continued.

“All sects and components of Iraqi society fought against ISIS, because Iraq belongs to everyone,” he declared.

Besieged Citizens in Mosul Suffer from Difficult Humanitarian Conditions

Displaced Iraqi men wait in a truck to be transported to a camp as the battle between the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service and Islamic State militants continues nearby, in western Mosul

Mosul – Civilians besieged in Mosul are reporting the city reeking of smell of corpses of citizens who died out of hunger, while the Security and Defense Committee of Nineveh Council announced that the battle to liberate Tal Afar, al-Hadar, al-Bajaaj, and other cities will begin as soon as the liberation of the right side of Mosul is finished.

Citizen Sabri al-Mosuli of al-Zanjili neighborhood reported the difficult humanitarian situation citizens are suffering from especially that temperatures are increasing and the smell of dead bodies is all over the place.

Zanjili told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper over the phone that they don’t know where the smells are coming from because citizens hide in the dungeons of their houses and they are only left with a little amount of flour and water from wells.

He said that it is likely that the dead bodies are of citizens who died of hunger and thirst. He also reported that over the past few weeks several elderly and children died because of hunger and lack of medications.

Safaa al-Obeidi, a citizen who arrived from al-Tanak neighborhood to the displaced camps, said that ISIS militants used to take dozens of families with them after every retreat from the western neighborhoods in the west of Mosul.

She explained that they escaped during the night benefiting from fewer numbers of militants on the streets. Obeidi stated that in areas under ISIS control over five families reside in one house, adding that the militants had now opened the houses for easy access between them and are wandering freely.

Security forces continued to bomb ISIS clusters in the remainder of the unliberated western neighborhoods of the city.

Member of Security and Defense Committee of Nineveh Council Hashim al-Brifkani told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the liberation of Tal Afar, al-Hadar, and Baaj won’t begin until the liberation of the west side of Mosul is completely over. He explained that the new plans for the security forces were fruitful and resulted in the liberation of several new neighborhoods and areas, adding that the security forces are heading towards the republican hospital now. Only seven neighborhoods remain until the whole right side of Mosul is completely liberated, he added.