ISIS on move to occupy Iraq’s second largest city

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By Nidhal al-Laithi

Azzaman, June 9, 2014

Iraq-based Jihadists have strengthened their positions in the northern city of Mosul and are on the move to occupy more chunks of the country’s second largest city, security sources said.

Following their control of at least five neighborhoods in the city, Jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) seem to be determined to march towards the center of the town, where the provincial headquarters are situated, the sources added.

The sources, refusing to be named for security reasons, said ISIS militants had infiltrated the old-city quarter of Meidan and have established a bridgehead close to the Old Bridge over the Tigris River that bisects the city into two halves.

Government troops lack the necessary air support to take out the militants. Their assaults have failed so far to halt the push by ISIS.

The government now fears ISIS might want to control the whole city, turning into a major stronghold or another ‘Faluja,’ the sources said.

Traffic on the highway from Baghdad to Mosul, which is the capital of the Province of Nineveh, has come to a halt as ISIS controls the villages and approaches where the highway winds up.

“If the government does not move quickly by dispatching enough troops and increasing the level of aerial bombing, the indications are that ISIS might occupy the whole of Mosul,” one senior security officer said.

The ISIS attack on Mosul has unnerved Kurdish militias known as peshmerga stationed in the villages and towns to the north and north-west of Mosul. The militias are in de-facto control of the so-called ‘disputed areas’ which administratively fall within the provincial borders of Nineveh province.

The sources said the head Kurdistan region, comprising the three provinces of Dahouk, Arbil and Sulaimaniya, has put his militias on high alert.

There are reports of thousands of residents fleeing the city amid latest advances made by ISIS, whose militants have been shelling the quarters under government control, including a military camp.

The districts and towns nearby report large-scale exodus, with thousands of displaced Mosul residents arriving in Zammar and the Kurdish city of Dahouk.

Mortars on Sunday killed eight people and injured many others, according to an army Lt. Gen. who spoke to Azzaman on condition that his name not be revealed.

He said mortars were causing heavy casualties and large-scale damage to the city as they are the weapons which ISIS uses widely.

ISIS assault on Mosul began late last week and in the first day of the attack 59 police officers and ISIS militants were reportedly killed in fierce house-to-house fighting.