'Gates of Hell': Iraqi Army Says Fighting Near Tal Afar Worse Than Mosul

'Gates of Hell': Iraqi Army Says Fighting Near Tal Afar Worse Than Mosul by Ahmed Rasheed - Reuters

Iraqi forces battling to retake the small town of al-’Ayadiya where militants fleeing Tal Afar have entrenched themselves, saying on Tuesday the fighting is “multiple times worse” than the battle for Mosul’s old city.

Hundreds of battle-hardened fighters were positioned inside most houses and high buildings inside the town, making it difficult for government forces to make any progress, army officers told Reuters.

Iraqi government troops captured the town of Mosul from Islamic State in July, but only after nine months of grinding urban warfare.

But one Iraqi officer, Colonel Kareem al-Lami, described breaching the militants’ first line of defense in al-’Ayadiya as like opening “the gates of hell”.

Iraqi forces have in recent days recaptured almost all of the northwestern city of Tal Afar, long a stronghold of Islamic State. They have been waiting to take al-’Ayadiya, just 11 km (7 miles) northwest of the city, before declaring complete victory.

Tough resistance from the militants in al-’Ayadiya has forced the Iraqi forces to increase the number of air strikes, as well as bring in reinforcements from the federal police to boost units from the army, air force, Federal Police, the elite U.S.-trained Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) and some units from the Shi’ite Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF)…

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