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U.S. Soldier Killed In Northern Iraq As Mosul Offensive Continues

  • RFE/RL

The Pentagon says a U.S. soldier has been killed by an improvised explosive device in northern Iraq.

U.S. defense officials said on October 20 that the soldier was wounded by the blast near the city of Mosul and died later from his injuries.

The soldier was among about 100 U.S. troops embedded with Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces that are helping to guide U.S.-led coalition air strikes in support of an Iraqi-led military offensive to recapture Mosul from Islamic State (IS) militants.

IS militants have set up booby traps and improvised explosive devices in villages, on roads, and in the desert around Mosul, a city they have held since the summer of 2014.

Iraq's Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said on October 20 that the military offensive, now in its fourth day, was progressing "more quickly" than originally planned.

Abadi hailed cooperation between the Iraqi Army and Kurdish forces, saying they were "fighting harmoniously together" to free Iraqi territory.

Some Kurdish Peshmerga troops that had been advancing from the east side of Mosul have been redeployed and were fighting on October 20 to seize control of villages to the north of the city.

Their strategic swing to the north puts the Peshmerga soldiers between Mosul and Turkish-trained Sunni militia fighters further north who have not played a coordinated role with Iraq's army in the battle.

Meanwhile, the advance of the Iraqi Army from the south side of Mosul was continuing to pivot around the east side of the city on October 20.

Backed by international air strikes, Iraqi Army troops had advanced by early October 20 to the town of Bartella, about 12 kilometers due east of Mosul.

That strategic town controls access into Mosul from Iraq's Highway 2, which links Mosul with Irbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdish region.

The head of Iraq's Special Forces, Lieutenant General Talib Shaghati, said his troops surrounded Bartella and had advanced to the center of the village by the end of the day -- killing at least 15 IS militants.

Later, Iraqi state television quoted an Iraqi military spokesman as saying a total of 80 IS militants were killed at Bartella, including 11 who attempted to drive suicide car bombs at Iraqi government troops.

Militants have been using suicide car bombs, roadside bombs, snipers, and mortars to try to repel the offensive against them.

Iraqi Army forces also have encircled Hamdaniya and were battling on October 20 for control of the strategic desert crossroads town about 12 kilometers to the southeast of Mosul.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and AFP
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