Entering Mosul from north, Iraqi army faces gruelling urban combat

Spirits have been high among Iraqi troops battling Daesh for control of Mosul as they advanced on the northern edge of the city, helped by a salvo of rockets fired by the U.S.-led coalition.

But as Friday wore on, the mood grew tense on the rooftop behind the frontline where Iraqi commanders and U.S. advisers were coordinating the fighting, as they came up against the challenges of combat in an urban environment and the terrorists detonated a car bomb.

“It’s that time of day,” said an American adviser as his Iraqi counterparts rushed to make contact with their men on the ground via walkie-talkie following the blast.

Vastly outnumbered and overpowered, Daesh terrorists have adopted the strategy of waiting for Iraqi forces to reach their target before launching a counterattack when their enemy is worn out after a day’s fighting.

The view from the rooftop several kilometers from the battle zone provided evidence of that pattern, and allowed a glimpse into the relationship between Iraqi commanders and their American partners.

Iraqi forces began their assault on Mosul’s Hadba apartment complex early on Friday, breaching the city’s northern limits for the first time since the campaign to retake the terrorists’ last major stronghold in Iraq began nearly three months ago.

Pressing their advance on Saturday, troops closed in on the Tigris river that runs through the middle of Mosul.

Elite counter-terrorism services (CTS) pushed into the city from the east in October, but regular army units like the 16th division deployed to the north made slower progress and the offensive stalled.

Iraqi forces renewed their assault just over a week ago and have since made rapid progress in Mosul’s eastern districts with increased support from U.S. forces now visible very close to the front lines.