The Latest: Turkish says its artillery aiding Iraq Kurds

AP News
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Posted: Oct 23, 2016 11:15 AM
The Latest: Turkish says its artillery aiding Iraq Kurds

KHAZER, Iraq (AP) — The Latest on developments in Iraq where Iraqi forces and their allies launched a major offensive this week to retake Mosul, the country's second-largest city from the Islamic State group (all times local):

6:15 p.m.

Turkey's prime minister says Turkish artillery has begun aiding Kurdish forces in their operation to liberate the town of Bashiqa, northeast of Mosul, from the Islamic State group.

Speaking to reporters Sunday, Binali Yildirim said Kurdish peshmerga forces "requested support from our soldiers at the Bashiqa base" and that Turkish tanks and artillery were now aiding them.

Relations between Ankara and Baghdad have been strained after Turkey sent hundreds of troops to the Bashiqa region to train anti-IS fighters there. Baghdad labels the move a violation of its sovereignty and demands Turkish withdrawal, a call which Ankara ignores.

Turkey claims the use of Shiite militias to liberate Mosul will displace its largely Sunni population, and has demanded the Sunni fighters it has trained also play a role in the Mosul campaign.

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5:45 p.m.

Kurdish forces say they have "cordoned off" eight villages northeast of Mosul and are now less than 9 kilometers (5 ½ miles) from the outskirts of the Islamic State-held city.

Kurdish and Iraqi forces launched an operation earlier Sunday to try and retake the town of Bashiqa, to the northeast of Mosul, part of a massive offensive that got underway a week ago.

The Kurdish forces, known as peshmerga, said in a statement that the area that was cordoned off measures around 100 square kilometers (38 square miles). It says they also secured a "significant stretch" of highway to limit the militants' movements.

The statement says eight car bombs were destroyed in the operation, including three by U.S.-led coalition aircraft, and "dozens" of militants were killed.

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4:30 p.m.

An Iraqi military spokesman says troops have repelled an attack by the Islamic State group on a western town, describing it as a bid to divert attention from the massive military operation to retake the IS-held city of Mosul in the north.

The spokesman for the Joint Military Command, Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, says IS militants attacked Rutba, in the sprawling desert province of Anbar, early Sunday. He says at least three suicide car bombs were blown up before reaching their targets and some militants were killed. He declined to say whether any civilians or Iraqi forces were killed.

He says the militants did not seize any government buildings and that the situation "is under control."

IS carried out a large assault on the northern city of Kirkuk on

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1:11 p.m.

The U.N. agency says more than 4,000 people have fled areas around Iraq's Mosul since the massive military operation to retake the Islamic State-held city began.

UNICEF's Iraq representative, Peter Hawkins, could not provide an exact figure but said at that in at least one refugee camp the conditions for children were "very, very poor." He says UNICEF teams delivered water, sanitation and other supplies expected to last seven days.

They also provided immunizations against polio and measles, which had not been available during the more than two years that the people lived under IS rule. UNICEF has plans to assist more than 784,000 people, including up to 500,000 children.

Hawkins says children in and around Mosul are at risk of death or injury from the fighting, as well as sexual violence, kidnapping and recruitment by armed groups.

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10:19 a.m.

Kurdish forces have launched a new push on Mosul as part of a massive Iraqi operation aimed at retaking the country's second largest city from the Islamic State group.

The Kurdish forces, known as peshmerga, said they launched a dawn offensive Sunday on two fronts to the northeast of Mosul, near the town of Bashiqa.

Over the last week, Iraqi and Kurdish forces have been battling IS in a belt of mostly uninhabited towns and villages around Mosul, contending with roadside bombs, snipers and suicide truck bombs.

The Mosul offensive involves more than 25,000 Iraqi ground forces as well as U.S.-led coalition aircraft and advisers. It is expected to take weeks, if not months, to drive IS from Mosul, which is home to more than a million civilians.