BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi forces battled Islamic State militants for a third day on Tuesday in a remote western town far from the Mosul offensive, but the U.S.-led coalition said the militants have not succeeded in diverting resources from the fight to retake Iraq’s second largest city.
Here is a look at the major developments on the ninth day of the Mosul offensive
FIGHTING IN REMOTE TOWN
The assault in Rutba, hundreds of miles (kilometers) to the south of Mosul in the western Anbar province, is the latest in a series of what U.S. officials are calling “spoiler attacks,” aimed at stretching Iraqi forces and sowing fear far from Mosul’s front lines.
Brett McGurk, the White House envoy to the coalition battling IS, insisted the militants’ strategy was failing, saying there had been “no diversion whatsoever” of forces taking part in the Mosul operation, which is expected to take weeks, if not months.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi later acknowledged that the militants had briefly seized the local government headquarters of Rutba, before being driven out “within hours” by security forces, who regained control of the town.
U.S. officials said there was still fighting underway in Rutba as of Tuesday afternoon.
Last week the group launched a similar assault in and around the northern city of Kirkuk, some 170 kilometers (100 miles) southeast of Mosul, igniting gun battles that lasted two days and killed at least 80 people.
Fighting was still underway on Tuesday in a belt of villages and towns to the north, east and south of the city. Maj. Gen. Haider Fadhil said the Iraqi special forces had reached a village located 6 kilometers (4 miles) from the eastern edge of Mosul.
Around 335 civilians were evacuated to a refugee camp from the village of Tob Zawa, about 9 kilometers (5½ miles) from Mosul, which was retaken by special forces on Monday, Fadhil said. He said the civilians were relocated to protect them from possible IS shelling.
The U.S.-led coalition said it carried out several airstrikes in support of the Mosul operation, including five on Monday that destroyed 22 fighting positions, eight tunnels and nine vehicles, one of which was rigged with explosives.
The U.S. is also providing ground support for the Mosul operation, with more than 100 American soldiers embedded with Iraqi units and hundreds more working in staging bases. A U.S. soldier was killed by a roadside bomb last week.