Iraqi Army Calls Fighting for Tal Afar Worse than Mosul, ‘Gates of Hell’

Iraq’s military forces are engaged in a fierce fight in the small town of al-’Ayadiya just outside of Tal Afar. Islamic State fighters have dug in to hold the small town where reports of the fighting being ‘multiple times worse’ that the battle for Mosul. One Iraqi officer, Colonel Kareem al-Lami, described the fighting at al-’Ayadiya as opening “the gates of hell”.

The Iraqi military took Mosul from the Islamic State in June but was forced to endure a long, bloody, house-to-house urban warfare with high casualties. Hundreds of IS fighters had dug in deep into houses and buildings and fighting to the death in many cases, making the progress slow.

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).

Up to 2,000 battle-hardened militants were believed to be defending Tal Afar against around 50,000 government troops last week.

Iraqi commanders are having to deal with a determined enemy who is dug in deep into an urban environment and is willing to make them pay for each building taken. The progress will be slow as they must deal with a street fighting exercise in bloody warfare. The Iraqis are planning of using artillery and air strikes to push the Daesh (Islamic State) out of the area.

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