- Title: Rowboats and missiles in war of attrition on Iraq front line
- Date: 25th January 2017
- Summary: YARIMJA, SOUTHEASTERN MOSUL, IRAQ (JANUARY 25, 2017) (REUTERS) MEMBER OF IRAQ'S RAPID RESPONSE FORCE OBSERVING ISLAMIC STATE POSITIONS ON OTHER SIDE OF THE RIVER TIGRIS VIEW OF THE TIGRIS RIVER AS SHOTS RING OUT FORCES FIRING INTO ISLAMIC STATE POSITIONS SOLDIER POINTING WEAPON AND FIRING/COMRADES FIRING SMOKE RISING FROM THE OTHER SIDE AS SHOTS RING OUT MORE OF SMOKE RISING REMAINS OF BURNT OUT VEHICLE BELONGING TO ISLAMIC STATE ON THE OTHER SIDE (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) SARMAD ALI, MEMBER OF THE RAPID RESPONSE UNIT, SAYING: ''Of course there are movements by them all the time, but our forces and vehicles are spread out across the length of the river. On this side, there is Daesh, facing us. Some families are trying to flee using boats from this area here to reach the bank on our side but Islamic State have snipers that shoot at them and fire mortars at them. Here, our role is to engage Daesh in order to allow the safe passage of the families.'' VIEW OF PEOPLE JUST ARRIVED AT THE EASTERN BANK WALKING ACROSS CARRYING WHAT APPEARS TO BE A WHITE PIECE OF CLOTHING MORE OF PEOPLE CROSSING INTO OTHER SIDE OF THE BANK
- Embargoed: 8th February 2017 17:48
- Keywords: Iraq government response slamic State Tigris Mosul.
- Location: YARIMJA , IRAQ
- City: YARIMJA , IRAQ
- Country: Iraq
- Topics: Conflicts/War/Peace,Insurgencies
- Reuters ID: LVA00160KYKHZ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Iraqi rapid response forces on Wednesday (January 25) took up positions on the rooftop of a house as Islamic State plotted its next move along the frontline between east and west Mosul.
Sometimes the militants row small boats across the Tigris River at night for a surprise attack, or they fire mortar bombs that can rattle neighbourhoods.
Jihadist snipers are a constant threat, dug in along a tree line about 600 metres away.
Both sides are carefully waging a war of attrition, seeking an edge as government forces, who have retaken most of east Mosul over the past three months, prepare to expand their offensive into the west.
Two nights ago, Iraqi forces got lucky. With their night-vision binoculars, they spotted 20 militants who had crossed the river in wooden rowboats, then began crawling along a field towards a small military camp.
A rapid response unit opened fire and killed the jihadists, all identified as foreign fighters, the most hardcore among Islamic State's ranks.
The battle for Mosul, Islamic State's last stronghold in Iraq, is entering a critical phase. Iraqi forces have gained confidence and momentum by pushing through the east but fighting across the river could be far more complex.
For one, vehicles like tanks and armoured personnel carriers can't move through the west's narrow streets, depriving government forces of a major advantage.
The fall of Mosul would effectively mark the end of Islamic State's self-proclaimed caliphate, declared in 2014 when only about 800 militants swept into Iraq's second largest city and faced virtually no opposition from the Iraqi army.
While the loss of Mosul would be a crushing blow, Islamic State is expected to wage an insurgency in Iraq and inspire attacks in the West.
At the moment, members of the elite rapid response team seem cautiously optimistic as they face off against an estimated 50 militants positioned across the Tigris.
A large white structure used by the militants, located just beyond the opposite bank of the river, was heavily damaged recently, as was a car.
One of the soldiers stared into a Russian-made scope used to guide missiles at a bulldozer used by Islamic State to create berms.
It was also destroyed, part of a cat and mouse game that could give either side an advantage as the campaign in the west kicks off.
The rapid response unit has far superior weaponry; Humvees, tanks, missiles, surveillance drones which are run by computers in a high-tech van, and support from U.S.-led coalition air strikes.
Islamic State seems to be banking on determination and cunning as it stares at enemies across the Tigris from ditches and tall grass.
''Of course there are movements by them all the time, but our forces and vehicles are spread out across the length of the river. On this side, there is Daesh, facing us. Some families are trying to flee using boats from this area here to reach the bank on our side but Islamic State have snipers that shoot at them and fire mortars at them. Here, our role is to engage Daesh in order to allow the safe passage of the families,'' said Sarmad Ali, member of the Rapid Response unit.
On the rooftop of another building, Iraq forces opened fire with machine guns and sniper rifles at militants to keep them from shooting at a family that was trying to flee the area on foot.
The family could be seen about 30 minutes later walking into a secure area.
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