In the second day of the Mosul campaign the advance towards the city slowed. The Kurds halted to consolidate what they had taken the day before, while the Iraqi forces in the south continued to move forward. That was by design, although some Peshmerga and western news reports tried to blame the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). There were reports and photographs of western advisers being at the frontlines with the Kurds. On the other hand, the Islamic State was trying to maintain control of its areas.
The Iraqi forces are advancing in two columns from the south on both sides of the Tigris River. On October 18 they freed Qaraqosh, Zawiya, Abassi, Lihoud, Khuder al-Yas, Bajwaniya, Tal al-Samen, Shura, and Hamdaniya. When the Iraqi Army’s 9th Division entered Hud, Islamic State fighters fled, taking around 70 civilians with them to use as human shields. On their way north they forced people from three more towns out of their homes, added them to their makeshift convoy, and executed several people who tried to stop them. 56 oil fields were also freed in the Ain-Ghash area of Qayara. Special Forces commander General Haider al-Obeidi said that they expected weak resistance in the opening phases of the campaign as IS was going to abandon many towns to consolidate in other areas.
There was another report that locals rose up in the town of Lazzagah and expelled the militants. This was the second or third village to do so depending upon which sources are consulted.
To the west, the Peshmerga stopped their advance. The BBC quoted a Kurdish colonel saying that the Peshmerga had reached all of their initial goals on the first day. Now they were to halt as part of the battle plan and wait for the Iraqi army to take the lead. That didn’t stop a few Peshmerga from bad mouthing the Iraqi forces in the press.
The Kurds were not completely silent on the second day however as a Counter Terrorism Unit flew into Hamdaniya for a raid. They destroyed several Islamic State vehicles and three car bombs before they could be used. The unit took some losses, but no figures on how many.
Western advisers are posted with the Kurds. Canadian Special Forces have been training the Peshmerga for two years now, and have been working along the frontlines as well. American Special Forces have also been photographed and filmed with the Kurds. This has been going on for months now given the friendlier and pro-western stance of the Kurds compared to the rest of the country where the Special Forces could run into pro-Iranian Hashd that have rejected the U.S.-led Coalition and threatened to attack westerners.
U.S. and Coalition forces are also providing air and artillery support. The skies above the battle space are full of U.S. and coalition aircraft and drones collecting intelligence and delivering air strikes. American and French artillery are also positioned in Ninewa and firing upon Islamic State positions.
There appeared to be very little fighting during the day. A suicide car bomb did attack the ISF in Nasir and a suicide bomber hit an Iraqi convoy in Bilawet. Casualties were reported but no specifics given. The Iraqi forces also destroyed four car bombs.
In Mosul, IS was reported to be moving around its fighters, while most of the city has shut down. Residents of Mosul contacted by Reuters by phone dismissed the many claims that Islamic State fighters were fleeing Mosul. Iraq Oil Report said that they had moved from the left to right bank of the city. There were two shootouts with resistance groups within Mosul. Most people are said to be staying inside their homes and most shops have closed. While aid agencies are afraid of massive displacement when the fighting for the city starts, there are so few IS fighters available for the defense that major parts of the metropolis may be untouched and residents will simply hunker down in their domiciles waiting for their liberation.
Finally, in Hamam al-Alil, which the ISF is close to reaching the Islamic State is attempting to maintain control. There was a news story that its men were going around flying Iraqi flags from cars and posing as members of the security forces to try to trick civilians into greeting them. 40 people were arrested and reportedly executed by IS as a result of this operation.
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