Iraqi Kurds advance into IS group -held town

AFP , Monday 7 Nov 2016

Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces said Monday that they had advanced into an Islamic State group-held town near Mosul and were moving from house to house clearing it.

"At approximately 0600 hrs on November 7, 2016, peshmerga forces began a large-scale ground assault from three fronts to clear Bashiqa town from (IS) terrorists," the peshmerga said in a statement.

"Peshmerga forces have advanced from all three fronts into the town and begun house-to-house clearances" as of Monday evening, they said.

The Kurdish forces attacked from the north, east and south of Bashiqa, which is located east of Mosul, IS group's last major urban stronghold in Iraq that the country's forces are battling to retake.

"We have been besieging (the jihadists) in the centre of the town for more than two weeks," peshmerga Major general Bahram Yassin told AFP.

In addition to being a battlefield in the war against IS group, Bashiqa has also been the centre of a bitter feud between Iraq and Turkey over the latter's deployment of troops in the area.

Ankara has insisted on playing a role in the operation to retake Mosul, which was launched on October 17, and has carried out artillery strikes against IS group from the Bashiqa area.

The government of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region has close ties to Ankara, but relations between Turkey and the federal government in Baghdad have grown steadily more tense over the troops issue.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has repeatedly demanded that Turkey remove its forces, while top Turkish officials have flatly refused to do so and made a series of dismissive statements about the Iraqi premier.

IS group overran Mosul and swathes of other territory north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces have since regained much of that ground from the militants.

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