Kurdish forces advance on Mosul; airstrikes heaviest since August

A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter takes his position as he keeps watch during the battle with Islamic State militants on the outskirts of Mosul, 21 January 2015.(Photo: Reuters)

Kurdish forces are moving towards Mosul after seizing three corridors with the assistance of coalition-led airstrikes, officials announced Monday. 

The Islamic State (IS) took over the northern Iraqi city several months ago after clashes with security forces and private militias. 

Coalition officials reported that Peshmerga forces retook three main routes along the Tigris River that were formerly occupied by the terrorists. Lieutenant General Jamal Mohammed, chief of staff of the Kurdish forces, say his men are getting close. 

"Peshmerga forces have advanced in the last few months to Mosul from the north, east and west," he explained. "Our operations have cut ISIS maneuvers in these areas. We are now close to the city center and in some areas we are only 6 to 9 miles away from it. 

"We have also controlled the main bridges in the areas of Aski and al-Kesk which are located on the main way between Mosul and Tal Afar," he added. 

The Fiscal Times reported that the Pesmerga are struggling to occupy the Salahuddin province to the south of Mosul, but have made enough advances to stifle the militants' momentum.

"We have reached the last available position in Aski and al-Kesk," Colonel Kamiran Hurami, a commander in the elite Zirvani forces, reported.

"Any further movement will be toward Mosul city center. We are waiting for orders in this regard. ISIS positions in Mosul have become within our artillery and rockets reach," he revealed. "We are constantly targeting them."

Airstrikes near Mosul have increased over the past several days, backing the ground troops and allowing them to conserve ammunition. A Moslawi blogger said he was taken aback by the heavy campaign.

"I arrived after dropping the 16th bomb, thinking that the bombardment had stopped already, but as soon as I arrived, I was startled by dropping four more bombs," Maouris Milton reported. 

The airstrikes are reportedly the heaviest they have been since the US campaign began in August, after the brutal execution of American journalist James Foley.