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Iraqi, Kurdish Forces Push Closer To Mosul As Baghdad, Ankara Spat Continues

Iraqi soldiers load a projectile into a multiple rocket launcher east of Mosul on October 24.
Iraqi soldiers load a projectile into a multiple rocket launcher east of Mosul on October 24.

Iraqi and Kurdish forces pushed closer towards Mosul on October 24 as part of an operation to retake the northern city from the Islamic State (IS) extremist group.

The operation came amid tensions between Turkey and Iraq, with Ankara insisting it was taking part in the offensive to take Mosul while Baghdad denied the claim.

Iraqi special forces stormed the villages of Khazna, Khazna Tabba, and Tob Zawa near Mosul, the last major IS stronghold in the country.

After entering the village, Iraqi forces allowed dozens of people who had been hiding in a school to escape the fighting.

Iraqi forces also pushed into a small village in the Shura district south of Mosul, where they battled IS militants before taking control of the area.

Meanwhile, Peshmerga fighters gained ground around Bartella, a historically Christian town east of Mosul that they had retaken last week.

Fighting still raged around Bashiqa, which Kurdish forces claimed to have seized over the weekend.

Violence also erupted in the Sinjar area of north-western Iraq after IS militants clashed with Kurdish forces, leaving at least 15 militants dead. ​

Turkey's 'Multi-Faceted Involvement'

The fighting came as Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi reiterated his call for Turkey to keep out of the operation to retake Mosul.

Ankara has so far refused and insisted it will participate in the offensive.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters on October 24 that Turkey was involved in the Mosul operation "in a multi-faceted way," including the participation of four Turkish F-16 fighter jets in the U.S.-led coalition against IS militants.

Seventeen IS militants have been killed by Turkish troops since the beginning of the Mosul offensive, according to Cavusoglu.

A day earlier, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Turkish tanks and artillery were supporting Peshmerga forces battling IS militants near Mosul.

Some 500 to 1,000 Turkish troops have been positioned near Mosul since late 2015 at a military base known as Camp Bashiqa where they have been training Sunni Arab tribal militia fighters and Peshmerga troops for the fight against IS.

Abadi, in remarks on October 24, denied Turkey's claim that its troops were taking part in the operation, describing it as "baseless and untrue."

"We reject any interference in Iraqi internal affairs and violating its sovereignty," Abadi said at a press conference.

Iran, a close ally of Baghdad, said Turkey must get permission from the Iraqi government to take part in the operation to retake Mosul.

“We regard as very dangerous [acts of] intervention by foreign countries without any coordination with the host country," Iranian President Hassan Rohani said on October 24.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said on October 24 that "it is not acceptable at all if a country, under the pretext of combating terrorism or any other crimes, tries to violate the sovereignty" of another country.

With reporting by AP, dpa, and AFP

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