Iraqi special forces pause in Mosul push due to poor weather

November 17, 2016

MOSUL, Iraq (AP) — Due to poor weather and cloudy skies, Iraq special forces on Thursday paused temporarily in their push into the northern city of Mosul held by the Islamic State group but still faced deadly attacks, including a suicide car bomb.

In the city’s eastern Tahrir neighborhood, a car packed with explosives sped out from its hiding spot in a school complex, ramming into Iraqi troops’ position and exploding into a ball of fire. A soldier was killed and three were wounded, two officers said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.

Clouds over the city obscured the visibility of drones and strike aircraft, said Brig. Gen. Haider Fadhil, adding that troops are using the pause to secure areas they have taken with checkpoints and are sweeping for explosives.

The U.S. coalition providing air cover and reconnaissance for the advancing forces has been a key element in the success of the Mosul battle so far, and the fighting stalls when the air power cannot be used.

On Wednesday, heavy fighting broke out in Tahrir, where an IS suicide car bomber disabled an Abrams tank belonging to the Iraqi army. Iraqi forces launched the long-awaited operation to retake Mosul nearly a month ago but have only advanced into a few eastern districts. The troops have faced fierce resistance, with snipers, mortar fire and suicide bombers driving armor-plated vehicles packed with explosives.

After swift initial advances into the city’s outskirts, the offensive slowed in more densely populated areas, where Iraqi troops cannot rely as much on airstrikes and shelling because of the risk posed to civilians, who have been told to stay in their homes.

Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, is the last major IS holdout in the country. Driving the militants out of Mosul would deal a severe blow to their self-styled caliphate stretching into Syria.

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