Iraq, Kurdish Peshmerga 3 miles or less from Mosul center

MOSUL, Iraq,  Iraqi security forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters are about 3 miles or less away from the center of the city of Mosul in their fight with the Islamic State for control of territory, military officials.

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Iraqi security forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters are about 3 miles or less away from the center of the city of Mosul. In this image, an Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighter watches from a sniping position as smoke billows in the distance as forces deploy in the area in Mount Zardak, near east Mosul, as they take part in an operation against the Islamic State October 17. File Photo by Shvan Harki/UPI | License Photo

Iraq’s U.S.-trained Golden Division forces late Saturday sustained heavy losses in the village of Bazwaya, about 1 mile away from Mosul’s Gogjali area. Fourteen Iraqi soldiers were killed during an exchange of gunfire with the Islamic State, which fired tracer rounds and used explosive weaponry.

Peshmerga forces on Sunday were about 3 miles away from the Mosul city center but it is unlikely they would enter the city due to a previous agreement with the Iraqi government. A U.S.-led international coalition has supported Iraqi and Kurdish forces in their advance through airstrikes and sharing of intelligence.

“We have not discussed with Baghdad whether Peshmerga forces would halt their advancement in Kurdish areas,” Ministry of Peshmerga official Jabar Yawar told Rudaw.

Kurdish forces have begun constructing defense ditches in Kurdish villages to help protect against possible Islamic State suicide bombing attacks, Sirwan Barzani, a Peshmerga official said.

Mosul is considered one of the most important battles in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq, as it is considered the militant Islamist group’s last major stronghold in the country. President Barack Obama and Iraqi officials have previously said they expect Mosul to be retaken by the Iraqi government by the end of the year.

In Syria, the Islamic State’s primary stronghold of Raqqa will soon be contested in a similar way to Mosul, as U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter on Tuesday said Western-backed troops are preparing an offensive to take the Syrian stronghold away from IS control.

By Andrew V. Pestano