Iraqi forces within 5 miles of Mosul, officials say

MOSUL, Iraq, Commanders for Kurdish Peshmerga forces say they are within five miles of Islamic State-held Mosul.Journalists have not been allowed in to the area near Bashiqa to confirm. A coalition of some 100,000 troops have been inching ever closer to Mosul since Monday, making faster gains than expected and liberating surrounding villages from the clutches of the Jihadist ranks, CNN reported.

Peshmerga forces transport military vehicles in Dohuk, north of Mosul, during an operation to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, October 20, 2016.Reports from the region Sunday say those forces are within five miles of Mosul, a city held by jihandist IS since 2014. Photo by Shvan Harki/ UPI | License Photo

Mosul has become a strategic caliphate for IS and when coalition forces go in, analysts say, it will likely lead to intense street fighting.

While the march toward Mosul continues, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter is in Irbil, Iraq, making assurances that the U.S. will continue to provide air support for Kurdish troops in its campaign to liberate that city. Questions remain on what role Turkey will take in the fight, Stars and Stripes reported.

Carter’s arrival coincided with an attack on IS militants in the village of Bashiqa, which is located in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, key for its proximity to Mosul and close to where Turkish trainers have prepared fighters for the Mosul campaign.

While in Irbil, Carter met with Kurdish regional President Massoud Barzani and emphasized the importance of the Kurds’ continued collaboration with Baghdad to drive IS out of the city the terrorist group has held since 2014.

Reports from the region said dozens of IS militants were killed by Peshmerga troops as the push toward Mosul moved forward. The IS reportedly executed about 40 people celebrating the liberation of their village by Iraqi forces, a Mosul official said.

By Yvette C. Hammett