A week after his tank division punched through Islamic State defenses on the southeast edge of Mosul, an Iraqi army colonel says the fight to drive the militants out of their urban stronghold is turning into a nightmare.
Against a well-drilled, mobile and brutally effective enemy, exploiting the cover of built-up neighborhoods and the city’s civilian population, his tanks were useless, he said, and his men untrained for the urban warfare they face.
His Ninth Armoured Division and elite counter terrorism units fighting nearby seized six of some 60 neighborhoods last week, the first gains inside Mosul since the Oct. 17 start of a campaign to crush Islamic State in its Iraqi fortress.
Even that small foothold is proving hard to maintain, however, with waves of counter attacks by jihadist units including snipers and suicide bombers who use a network of tunnels stretching for miles (km) under the city.
They appear able to strike at will, often at night, denying the troops rest and rattling frayed nerves.
“We’re an armored brigade, and fighting without being able to use tanks and with soldiers unused to urban warfare is putting troops in a tough situation,” the officer told Reuters. He asked not to be named because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
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