U.S.-led coalition officials involved in the operation to eradicate the Islamic State from Mosul say they have succeeded in curbing the number of vehicle-based suicide bomb attacks on Iraqi troops on the ground by “cratering” the city’s roads and knocking down its bridges.
The Kurdish outlet Rudaw cites Deputy Commander for Combined Joint Task Force for Operation Inherent Resolve Maj. Gen. Rupert Jones as telling reporters that Islamic State terrorists were now limited in their use of vehicle-born improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) because they could no longer easily drive around the city. Inherent Resolve is the U.S.-led coalition’s name for the operation to eradicate the Islamic State from its last stronghold in Iraq — Mosul.
“The coalition disabled four of the five bridges in Mosul and ‘cratered’ roads used by ISIS with their VBIEDs,” Rudaw reports.
“This combination of the two tactics seems to be reducing the number of VBIEDs that the enemy has been able to use,” Maj. Gen. Jones is quoted as saying.
The Washington Post notes that Iraqi officials confirmed to them that over 600 vehicle-based bombings have occurred against Iraqi ground troops since the operation began a month and a half ago. Keeping that number down is a pivotal part of maintaining control over the neighborhoods the Iraqi military has already liberated.
An estimated fifth of the city has returned to Iraqi government control, according to a Fox News report Thursday. “The Iraqi security forces have completely encircled the city,” Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Col. John Dorrian told the news outlet. Given that there are few places for the cornered jihadis to flee, Dorrian predicts the fighters stationed in Mosul “are largely going to be destroyed in place.”
On Friday, Rudaw placed the Iraqi troop advance in the neighborhood of Meshraq, which it designated a “strategic” one. The fight has been slow and bloody, with Baghdad announcing that 2,000 Iraqi soldiers, allied Shiite militia fighters, and Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers had been killed since mid-October. This is nearly double the number of Islamic State fighters reportedly killed as announced earlier this week. In addition, 74,000 civilians have reportedly abandoned Mosul, flooding neighboring northern Iraqi areas.
The thousand bodies of Islamic State jihadists largely remain on the streets of Mosul, with civilians demanding the Iraqi military remove them before they rot and potentially contaminate the city’s limited water supply. Those in the liberated areas of the city are struggling to feed their families, with some reports noting that Iraqi soldiers have had to share their food with civilians.
In ISIS-controlled areas, the Islamic State has begun executing civilians attempting to flee. The UN cited one particularly harrowing incident earlier this week in which Islamic State terrorists killed “dozens” of civilians, among them at least one child under ten years of age.
“In its desperate attempt to cling on to territory it controls in Mosul and Ninevah areas, Daesh has been employing the most vicious tactics, using civilian homes as firing positions as well as abducting and forcibly moving civilians, effectively using them as human shields,” CNN quotes UN Iraq representative Ján Kubiš as saying earlier this week.