Iraqi forces assault villages outside Mosul, face IS bombers
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HAJ ALI, Iraq — Iraqi forces assaulted Islamic State-held villages across dusty fields south of Mosul on Tuesday, where suicide car bombers and snipers caused some two dozen casualties in a blatant reminder that militants still hold ground far from the main battlefield.
Several hundred fighters from the army and state-sanctioned Shiite militias massed in the nearby village of Haj Ali for the assault, firing mortars at IS positions in the rural villages of Shayala Abali and Shayala Ayma, 90
Columns of Humvees drove across open plain while firing heavy
"Their frontline has been fully destroyed, we're only suffering from one sniper and we're dealing with him," said Sgt. Mohammed, who rushed off to transport wounded before giving his last name. "There were explosive devices and car bombs, but they are finished."
Behind the army troops, dozens of civilian pickup trucks loaded with armed militiamen sped off toward the villages while some of damaged Humvees returned with cracked bulletproof windshields.
The government last month launched a massive campaign to retake Mosul, captured by IS in 2014 and its last major urban
Progress has been slower elsewhere, with militarized federal police troops at the southern approach still fighting some 25
A day earlier, Iraqi army troops took a mostly abandoned village, al-Qasar, seven
Inside Mosul Tuesday, special forces fighting in the eastern side of the city conducted house-to-house searches in a contested
He said the special forces were now in control of about 80
Probing into the city from the Bakr
"They've been putting the IEDs in houses and kicking the people out of their homes," he said, adding that IS militants were "smashing holes between buildings" to move unseen by troops and reconnaissance drones.
To the west of Mosul near the town of Tal Afar, a spokesman for one of the larger Shiite militias said their positions came under heavy IS shelling Tuesday for the third consecutive day. IS has been firing an average of 100 mortars daily on their positions, said Jaafar al-Husseini the militia's spokesman.
He said fighters were responding with mortars and heavy artillery, adding that two militiamen were killed and seven injured by the shelling on Tuesday.
The militias captured the air strip outside Tal Afar last week, but have yet to launch their much heralded assault with the army on the city itself. Tal Afar was a Shiite majority town with a population of some 200,000 before IS captured it in 2014.
Meanwhile in Geneva, the U.N. human rights office said it had received reports of serious human rights abuses by IS in and around Mosul, saying the extremist group has been installing rocket launchers and placing snipers on the rooftops of civilian houses, in some cases against the wishes of their owners.
"Those who refuse to allow their houses to be used in this way are threatened or killed," it said in a statement Tuesday. It said IS militants reportedly shot and killed 12 civilians in eastern Mosul's Bakr
"These families are effectively used as human shields, placed squarely in harm's way, caught between ISIL and Iraqi security force fire responding to rocket and sniper attacks," it added, using one of several acronyms for IS.
"We are also deeply worried about the fate of hundreds of people who are reportedly being abducted by ISIL and moved to unknown locations," it said.
IS continues to abduct and forcibly move civilians, and kill those it suspects of leaking information to Iraqi security forces, it added.
Reports suggest that on Nov. 25, IS militants publicly shot to death 27 civilians in Muhandiseen Park in northern Mosul. There were also reports of IS fighters shooting at fleeing civilians, including a Nov. 22 report of an IS sniper killing a seven-year-old child who was running toward the Iraqi military's lines in eastern Mosul's Aden
Associated Press writers Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad and Jamey Keaten in Geneva contributed to this report.
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